News Item

Hypersonic UAV crashes

An unmanned hypersonic aircraft has crashed into the Pacific after reaching about 20 times the speed of sound.

The experimental Lockheed Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) was launched on 12 August on a Minotaur IV rocket at 0745 local time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The arrowhead-shaped UAV is reported to have soared to the 'edge of space', separated from the booster and was about to enter its glide phase - during which it would reach speeds of Mach 20 (~13,000 miles per hour) before diving into the Pacific.

But at around 0822 local time, controllers apparently lost telemetry with the UAV.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) explained that the UAV successfully made the transition to Mach 20 aerodynamic flight and that over 9 minutes of data was collected before an anomaly caused loss of signal.

This was the UAV’s second and final planned test flight. The first attempt - in April 2010 - also ended 9 minutes into the flight, when the onboard computer forced a splashdown. The maiden voyage had seen speeds of between Mach 17 and Mach 22.

The Programme Manager commented 'We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of’s vexing; I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it.'

The project began in 2003 and cost $320 (£197, €225) million. The goal is cited as to develop technology to deliver a non-nuclear warhead anywhere in the world within an hour. According to DARPA, a flight from New York to Los Angeles at Mach 20 would take less than 12 minutes.

Details from below.

  • 13 August 2011
  • CMAG

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