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Sunday, 25 April 2010 23:31

Don't tell anyone: Hypersonic glider blasts off


An experimental, and very secret, hypersonic glider called the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2a (Falcon HTV-2a) was launched over the Pacific Ocean from California on April 22, 2010 by the U.S. DARPA and the USAF.

The DARPA Falcon Project is a joint program between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force (USAF).

Falcon is short for (Force Application and Launch from Continental United States),

According to a DARPA Factsheet, the HTP-2 vehicle is to allow the U.S. military ''¦ the capability to respond, with little or no advanced warning, to threats to our national security anywhere around the globe.'

The HTV-2a vehicle, designed by Lockheed Martin, was launched by a Minotaur IV Lite rocket, built by Orbital Sciences, from Space Launch Complex 8 at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The launch occurred on Thursday afternoon (at 4 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time, PDT, or 2300 Greenwich Mean Time, GMT) on April 22, 2010.

The HTV-2a test flight was to launch the Minotaur rocket into Earth's upper atmosphere, separate from its payload (the HTV-2a vehicle) and have the HTV-2a vehicle glide at hypersonic speeds for about thirty minutes.

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The experimental glider was to fly at about Mach 20 (twenty times the speed of sound)'”which is about 15,360 miles (24,775 kilometers) per hour'”across the Pacific Ocean.

After traveling between 4,000 to 4,800 miles (6,450 to 7,700 kilometers), for about 30 minutes, across the ocean, the HTV-2a glider was to intentionally crash north of the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll, which is located about 2,100 miles southwest of Hawaii.

Without any plans to recover the vehicle from beneath the waters, its mission would end.

The test flight was to test the aerodynamic capabilities of the craft as it glided at Mach 20 from California to Kwajalein.

According to the Fox News article 'Secret U.S. Spaceship Launch Masks Even More Secret Launch,' 'The 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base acknowledged that the glider took off Thursday afternoon from the central California coast, but the Air Force statement does not reveal the result of the test involving.'

However, reports in the April 23, 2010 SpaceflightNow.com article 'New Minotaur rocket launches on suborbital flight,' that about nine minutes into the flight, contact was lost between the ground controllers and the vehicle.

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The SpaceflightNow.com article states that the HTV-2a ''¦ apparently did not complete all of its planned maneuvers to demonstrate new hypersonic flight systems.'

In a statement provided by DARPA: 'Preliminary review of technical data indicates the Minotaur Lite launch system successfully delivered the Falcon HTV 2 glide vehicle to the desired separation conditions. The launch vehicle executed first of its kind energy management maneuvers, clamshell payload fairing release and HTV 2 deployment." [SpaceflightNow]

The DARPA statement, via SpceflightNow, did not indicate whether any test maneuvers were completed before contact was lost. A second test flight, supposedly of Falcon HTV-2b, is scheduled for sometime in 2011.




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