Mach 22 and beyond!
Published: August 11, 2011
WASHINGTON – Don’t blink. Actually, go ahead. The Air Force is test flying something Thursday you’ll likely never see anyway.
The already legendary Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, or HVT-2, is a wedge-shaped plane that can speed more than 13,000 mph, according to its creators at DARPA, the secretive Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Follow the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif – where else? – on DARPA’s Twitter feed.
Why is the aircraft really important? Because it’s a potential “prompt global strike” vehicle, reports the Wall Street Journal.
DARPA is posting cool facts, like this thing flies 22 times faster than your commercial airliner "in an atmospheric regime that is not fully understood.” Oh, and it’s going to do that by gliding.
Check out this graphic of the launch pattern and its stages.
Wednesday’s launch was scrubbed due to poor weather. The previous test flight last year ended with a crash into the Pacific. But the U.S. was able to record nine minutes of data of what it’s like to fly something between Mach 22 and Mach 17.
Here’s a picture of the rocket carrying the plane into space before it descends for the test run.
UPDATE: The launch succeeded and HVT-2 was entering the glide phase, DARPA tweeted.
UPDATE 12:08 P.M. EDT: DARPA last tweeted the U.S. has lost telemetry with the test vehicle more than 45 minutes ago. Waiting for update.
UPDATE Aug. 12, 3:17 P.M. EDT: Apologies for leaving you hanging. After a long silence, DAPRA reported the military lost contact with the HVT-2 and it crashed into the ocean. Program manger Maj. Chris Schulz called it “vexing.” Here’s what happened, via the New York Times.