Cool Video: HTV-2 Re-enters Atmosphere at Mach 20

DARPA’s August 11, 2011, second flight of the HTV-2 hypersonic glider – which ended prematurely after only 9min of a planned 30min flight across the Pacific – was captured on handheld video camera by a crewmember of one of the ships tracking the vehicle’s telemetry as it re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound. DARPA does not yet know while the flight ended prematurely. The first HTV-2 flight, on April 22, 2010, also ended after just 9 min.

HTV-2 Flight: Not Perfect, But Better

Despite losing contact with its second HTV-2 vehicle, DARPA says the flight was an improvement over the inaugural test last year:

“According to a preliminary review of the data collected prior to the anomaly encountered by the HTV-2 during its second test flight,” said DARPA Director Regina Dugan, “HTV-2 demonstrated stable aerodynamically controlled Mach 20 hypersonic flight for approximately three minutes. It appears that the engineering changes put into place following the vehicle’s first flight test in April 2010 were effective. We do not yet know the cause of the anomaly for Flight 2.”

Read the full press release below.


Falcon HTV-2 Hypersonic Vehicle to Fly on Wednesday

How do you learn to fly at 13,000 miles per hour—a speed at which it would take less than 12 minutes to get from New York to Los Angeles? Or, how do you know whether a vehicle can maintain a long-duration flight while experiencing temperatures in excess of 3,500 degrees Fahrenheit—hotter than a blast furnace that can melt steel? And if you can fly, and withstand the extreme heat, how do you know if the vehicle can be controlled as it rips apart the air? How? You try it.

DARPA’s second flight test of the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 is scheduled to launch Wednesday. The flight window is between 7:00am – 1:00 pm PDT from Vandenberg AFB, Calif., aboard an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket.


Aurora Flight Systems Gets DARPA F6 Satellite Contract

The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless "virtual spacecraft" operating as a cluster of modules.

AURORA PR Cambridge, MA, June 28, 2011 – Aurora Flight Sciences announced its selection by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for the System F6 fractionated spacecraft program. Over the next thirty months, Aurora will develop and verify algorithms, software, protocols, interfaces and reference implementations that can be deployed in future spacecraft. Aurora’s team includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center, and the University of Maryland.


DARPA IDs Flaw in Falcon HTV-2, Will Test Again Next Year

DARPA Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle (HTV)


Following an extensive six-month review, the independent Engineering Review Board (ERB) chartered to examine data collected during the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle’s (HTV-2) first flight has completed its review. The ERB concluded that the anomaly resulted from flight control authority limitations to operate at the angle of attack the vehicle was programmed to fly for the speed and altitude of the flight.


The 100-Year Starship Could Take a While


Throughout history technical challenges have inspired generations to achieve scientific breakthroughs of lasting impact. Several decades ago, for instance, the race to the moon sparked a global excitement surrounding space exploration that persists to this day. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the NASA Ames Research Center have teamed together to take the first step in the next era of space exploration—a journey between the stars.

The 100-Year Starship study will examine the business model needed to develop and mature a technology portfolio enabling long-distance manned space flight a century from now. This goal will require sustained investments of intellectual and financial capital from a variety of sources. The year-long study aims to develop a construct that will incentivize and facilitate private co-investment to ensure continuity of the lengthy technological time horizon needed.


U.S. Government Embraces Prize Contests to Meet Challenges

Government contests offer different way to find solutions for problems
The Washington Post

The U.S. government is giving away prizes. In seeking solutions to problems, it has discovered the magic of contests, or challenges — also known as open grant-making or open innovation. Or crowd-sourcing.

Whatever you call this new way of doing business, it represents a dramatic departure from the norm for the bureaucratic, command-and-control federal government. To be sure, the agencies won’t abandon the traditional method of doling out grants to predictable bidders. But in the new era of innovation-by-contest, the government will sometimes identify a specific problem or goal, announce a competition, set some rules and let the game begin.


DARPA Falcon HTV-2 Hypersonic Vehicle to Launch from Vandenberg on Tuesday

Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle (HTV)

DARPA is set to launch its maneuverable, hypersonic Falcon HTV-2 test vehicle out of Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday. The Lockheed Martin built vehicle — designed to fly at speeds of Mach 20 and above — will be launched aboard a Minotaur Lite rocket. It is set to fly about 4,100 nautical miles across the Pacific in less then 30 minutes before impacting in the ocean north of the Kwajalein Atoll. The goal of the project is to design weapons that will allow the U.S. to quickly respond to threats.


Orbital Sciences Awarded Phase 2 Contract for DARPA Fractional Satellite

The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless “virtual spacecraft” operating as a cluster of modules
The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless “virtual spacecraft” operating as a cluster of modules

Orbital Sciences Corporation, a world leader in smaller-sized civil government and national security satellites, announced today that it has been awarded a Phase 2 contract by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arlington, VA, to develop the final design for “System F6” (Future Fast, Flexible, Fractionated, Free-Flying Spacecraft).


NASA, DARPA Look at Orbital Debris Removal

Computer generated image showing the debris cloud around Earth.
Computer generated image showing the debris cloud around Earth.

Military agency studying space garbage service
Spaceflight Now

The Pentagon’s research and development division is studying concepts to remove dangerous space debris from orbit, an endeavor long dismissed as too costly but potentially feasible with technology advancements.


Space Review: Augustine, Robotics and Distributed Satellites


The Space Review has four new essays this week:

  • The Planetary Society’s Louis Friedman writes an open letter to Obama urging the President to calls the Augustine commission report into and a blueprint for a bold new space exploration program;
  • Jeff Foust reports on some of the important space policy issues that do not involve NASA’s human spaceflight program;
  • Taylor DInerman discusses major issues and budgetary concerns involving NASA’s robotic space efforts;
  • Foust looks at a DARPA project that involves splitting up a large spacecraft into several smaller, interconnected satellites.

DARPA’s Fractioned Satellite Could Revolutionize Industry

The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless “virtual spacecraft” operating as a cluster of modules
The System F6 space architecture replaces the traditional monolithic spacecraft with a wireless “virtual spacecraft” operating as a cluster of modules

DARPA Sat Project Could Change Industry
Aviation Week

A fractionated satellite concept that replaces large satellites with clusters of wirelessly-linked modular spacecraft flying in loose formation has the potential to drive cultural change and reinvigorate a “mature” U.S. space industry, proponents say.


Boeing Working on Revolutionary Space Power System



An industry team led by The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has received a contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) for work on Phase 2 of the Fast Access Spacecraft Testbed (FAST) program. The $15.5 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract is currently funded to $13.8 million.

DARPA’s FAST program aims to develop a new, ultra-lightweight High Power Generation System (HPGS) that can generate up to 175 kilowatts — more power than is currently available to the International Space Station. When combined with electric propulsion, FAST will form the foundation for future self-deployed, high-mobility spacecraft to perform ultra-high-power communications, space radar, satellite transfer and servicing missions.