DARPA Loses Contact with Mach 20 "Hypersonic Glider" During Test Flight

By Andrew Moseman | April 27, 2010 1:03 pm

HTV2It was a big week for experimental military aircraft, with the Air Force’s secretive X-37B space plane and the Navy’s biofuel-powered “Green Hornet” both achieving successful test flights. But the most ambitious—the HTV-2 hypersonic glider under development by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—lost contact with its operators during its run.

Launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif. on April 22, the unmanned HTV-2 was planned to cross the Pacific and impact the ocean north of Kwajalein Atoll in the first of two flights to demonstrate technology for a prompt global strike weapon [Aviation Week]. It successfully achieved separation from its booster rocket high in the atmosphere; however, nine minutes into the test the glider lost communication. Now the military is studying the test flight telemetry to figure out where the HTV-2 would have crashed down.

Thursday’s mission was the first of two planned in the HTV-2 program, which uses Minotaur 4 boosters developed by Orbital Sciences Corp. from decommissioned Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missiles. The U.S. military is trying to develop technology to respond to threats around the globe at speeds of Mach 20 or greater, according to DARPA [AP]. DARPA is being fairly tight-lipped about possible uses for the HTV-2, but it’s not hard to see why the military would be excited about an aircraft that travels about 13,000 miles per hour and can strike on the other side of the world with “little or no advanced warning,” as the agency says.

Program manager Paul Erbland says the key to HTV-2 flying at such speed and height is its carbon shell, which is capable of withstanding extreme heat and pressure. It doesn’t burn off material to get rid of heat. The vehicle is designed to fly at a low angle of attack relative to other hypersonic vehicles. “Shuttle and similar vehicles fly at roughly 40°; HTV-2 is substantially below that,” he said [Aviation Week]. As for the communications failure, DARPA has some time to address the problem before the craft’s second planned test flight next March.

Related Content:
80beats: Will the Pentagon Build the Jetsons’ Flying Car?
80beats: Highway to the Green Zone? Navy To Test a Supersonic Biofuel Jet
80beats: DARPA Wants a Biofuel Jet, While Germany Works on a Hydrogen Plane
80beats: DARPA’s Kooky $40,000 Scavenger Hunt

Image: DARPA

  • Dennis

    So that’s what crashed into my living room last night!

    (just kidding NSA, if you’re listening – and we all know you are…)

  • Sonic
  • Krill

    We have it here in the forth dimension..

  • humble reader

    @Sonic Says

    “This video contains content from 4 Kids TV, who has blocked it in your
    country on copyright grounds.”


  • AzJLdIzCW4Y
  • John

    FALCON Force Application and Launch from the Continental United States

    Look this and affiliated stuff up on globalsecurity.org and you’ll see this is the “final draft” of the vehicle, which appears to be a high speed, high impact delivery method for a new generation of ground penetrating warheads, i.e. for use on Iranian bunkers. The full Minotaur IV (NOT the lite version) launch vehicle IS the method by which they will deliver this bad boy into a suborbital glide path to the target. The Kwaljaliin Atoll test range is where they test OPERATIONAL missiles. Don’t buy that the test failed. 2010 was the target date to have this thing READY.

  • scribbler

    Interesting that this thing flies at 13,000 mph.. That’s half way around the world in one hour…

    That’s FAST! Doesn’t leave much time to raise a defense but then, at that speed, what else besides a laser will be able to hit it and then only if something can accurately track it. Wonder what the radar signature on this thing is?

    So, speed not being an issue, that only leaves angle of desent to limit the striking range. However, if the rocket system can pretty well put this thing close to your target and the vehicle is used only to fine tune the aim, the angle of desent as a hinderance is negated…

    Fearsome weapon delivery system indeed.


    Kill ratio= ?$…..targets ? But what do I know? Shalom.

  • Murphy’s Law

    I don’t mean to tell the CIA their business, but a biofuel jet? Please tell me there is something I don’t know about the feasibility of using biological plants to power planes in just the simple terms of the acreage required to literally grow sustainable biofuel. I thought we realized years ago that there just isn’t enough fertile land to seriously develop biofuel as a means of energy. I would urge DARPA to look at Hydrogen, since the planet is mostly water. I realize this sounds like naivette and I suppose some of the high pressure and cooling requirements are an issue for hydrogen as well as (if i recall without looking it up) the corrosive aspects of hydrogen on storage containers… well maybe they’re right after all. Probably hard to keep Hydrogen cool during reentry for example or under extreme pressure without risk of explosion… especially when its likely carrying an explosive payload… Nevermind!

  • G Hats

    maybe the north koreans stole it and will now reverse engineer it to make it our doom

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/04/27/darpa-loses-contact-with-mach-20-hypersonic-glider-during-test-flight/ Thor

    If the weapon is flying that fast… the impact alone will remove the top of a small mountain, and the enemy will never hear it coming until its too late.

  • regnar11b

    Well if this is being released to the public as an experimental plane….. then what do we have that is classified better than this currently used? In the 80’s civis were about 10 years behind the technology curve, makes one wonder.

  • aL ai


    we have HAARP…

    scaler is speed of light…click-boom…

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