DARPA’s Falcon HTV-2 unmanned aircraft has been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, as part of a critical test flight at hypersonic speeds. The experimental aircraft is fast enough to travel from New York to Los Angeles in just 12 minutes.
update: The U.S. military said it launched the Falcon HTV-2, which reached speeds of 13,000 mph, but lost control after about nine minutes of flight and, they believe, crashed in the Pacific Ocean. Last year, the first Falcon vanished over the Pacific Ocean, leaving absolutely no trace.
The plan is to launch in space Falcon HTV-2 on a hypersonic flight that will reach speeds of up to 13,000 miles per hour (roughly 20 times the speed of sound) before returning to Earth, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The flight will also test the carbon composite materials designed to withstand the extreme temperatures the plane will experience on its skin, in addition to the navigation systems that will control its trajectory as it moves at almost four miles per second.
“We need to increase our technical knowledge to support future hypersonic technology development. We gained valuable data from the first flight, made some adjustments based on the findings of an engineering review board to improve this second flight, and now we’re ready to put all of that to the test,” said Dave Neyland, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
The Falcon HTV-2 first began in 2003, as part of a U.S. military research project to create a plane that could reach any part of the world in less than an hour, and potentially deliver bombs in under the same amount of time.
During its first test flight back in April, the craft lasted just nine minutes before intentionally crashing, due to technical failures.