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DARPA Lost Contact With Falcon HTV-2 Vehicle

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
April 26, 2010

Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle (HTV)

DARPA says that it lost contact with an experimental hypersonic test vehicle launched from California last week only nine minutes into a 30-minute flight:

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.

Approximately 9 minutes into the mission, telemetry assets experienced a loss of signal from the HTV-2. An engineering team is reviewing available data to understand this event.

This flight represents many historic firsts for both the launch system and the HTV-2 vehicle. Three test ranges, six sea-based and two airborne telemetry collection assets were employed and operational on the day of launch. Technical data collected during the flight will provide insight into the hypersonic flight characteristics of the HTV-2.

DARPA’s Falcon HTV-2 program objective is developing and testing an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable, hypersonic air vehicle that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds—up to Mach 20.

The key technical challenges of the HTV-2 program are the design and testing of an innovative high lift-to-drag aerodynamic shape, advanced lightweight but tough thermal protection structures, materials and fabrication technologies, autonomous hypersonic navigation guidance and control systems, and an autonomous flight safety system.