Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2

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Hypersonic Technology Vehicle HTV-2 reentry (artist's impression)
Hypersonic Technology Vehicle HTV-2 reentry (artist's impression)

Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) is an experimental hypersonic glide vehicle developed as part of the DARPA Falcon Project capable of flying at 13,000 mph (Mach 17.53, 21,000 km/h).[1][2] It is a test bed for technologies to provide the United States with the capability to reach any target in the world within one hour (Prompt Global Strike) using an unmanned hypersonic bomber aircraft.[3]


The Falcon HTV-1 program, which preceded the Falcon HTV-2 program, was conducted in April, 2010. The mission ended within nine minutes from launch.[3] Both these missions are funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to help develop hypersonic technologies and to demonstrate its effectiveness.[4] Under the original plan, HTV-1 was to feature a hypersonic lift-to-drag ratio of 2.5, increasing to 3.5-4 for the HTV-2 and 4-5 for the HTV-3. The actual lift-to-drag ratio of HTV-2 was estimated to be 2.6.[5]

HTV-2 was to lead to the development of an HTV-3X vehicle, known as Blackswift, which would have formed the basis for deployment around 2025 of a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle, an unmanned aircraft capable of taking off from a conventional runway with a 5,400 kg (12,000 lb) payload to strike targets 16,650 km away in under 2 hours. The HCV would have required a lift-to-drag ratio of 6-7 at Mach 10 and 130,000 ft (40,000m).[6]


DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2
DARPA's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 is arrowhead-shaped.

Development of protection structures that are tough and lightweight, development of an aerodynamic shape that has a high lift to drag ratio, development of automatic navigation control systems etc. were some of the initial technical challenges that had been overcome in the final design.[4] The various departments involved in designing the vehicle included aerothermodynamics, materials science, hypersonic navigation, guidance and control systems, endo- and exo-atmospheric flight dynamics, telemetry and range safety analysis. The craft could cover 17,000 kilometres (11,000 mi), the distance between London and Sydney, in 49 minutes.[3]

Built by Lockheed Martin Corp, the HTV-2 is made of carbon composite material; the durability of such material was needed to prevent important internal components from being destroyed because they are a few inches from its surface. The surface temperature of the HTV-2 was expected to reach 1,930 °C (3,500 °F) or more in flight; steel melts at 1,370 °C (2,500 °F).[7]

Flight testing[edit]

Launch of HTV-2a on a Minotaur IV Lite rocket
Falcon HTV-2 baseline flight test trajectories
Falcon HTV-2 baseline flight test trajectories

Both flights reached Mach 20 (high-hypersonic speed) and lost telemetry at 9 minutes of a planned 30-minute mission.

The HTV-2's first flight was launched on 22 April 2010.[8] The HTV-2 glider was to fly 4,800 miles (7,700 km) across the Pacific to Kwajalein at Mach 20.[9] The HTV-2 was boosted by a Minotaur IV Lite rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; the glider was carried inside the nose of the Minotaur IV Lite rocket into outer space with a launch altitude of 100 miles (160 km). The flight plan called for the craft to separate from the launch vehicle, level out and glide above the Pacific at Mach 20.[1][3] Contact was lost with the vehicle at nine minutes into the 30-minute mission, and the glider's skin disintegrated.[3][10][11] In mid-November, DARPA stated that the first test flight ended when the computer autopilot "commanded flight termination" after the vehicle began to roll violently.[12]

A second flight was initially scheduled to be launched on August 10, 2011, but bad weather forced a delay.[13] The flight was launched the following day, on 11 August 2011. The unmanned Falcon HTV-2 successfully separated from the booster and entered the mission's glide phase, but again lost contact with control about nine minutes into its planned 30-minute Mach 20 glide flight. Initial reports indicated it purposely impacted the Pacific Ocean along its planned flight path as a safety precaution.[14][15][16] The glider's surface reached 1,930 °C (3,500 °F) (the speed and heat caused part of the skin to peel away from the aerostructure[7]) and controlled itself for 3 minutes before crashing.[17]

Future development[edit]

2020 Hawaii launch

DARPA does not plan to conduct a third flight test of the HTV-2. The decision was made because substantial data was collected from the first two flights, and a third was not thought likely to provide any additional valuable data for the cost. The first flight provided data in aerodynamics and flight performance, while the second provided information about structures and high temperatures. Experience gained from the HTV-2 will be used to improve hypersonic flight.

Work on the HTV-2 will continue to Summer 2014 to capture technology lessons and improve design tools and methods for high-temperature composite aeroshells.[18][needs update]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Experimental aircraft to launch Wednesday from Vandenberg". sanluisobispo.com. Archived from the original on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  2. ^ "A Rocket-Airplane Will Fly Mach 20 Today, But Won't Be Taking Passengers". Jaunted. Archived from the original on 14 September 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Hypersonic plane could fly Sydney to London in 49 minutes". The Sydney Morning Herald. 11 August 2011. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  4. ^ a b "Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle HTV-2". globalsecurity.org. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  5. ^ James M. Acton (September 2015). "Hypersonic Boost-Glide Weapons". scienceandglobalsecurity.org.
  6. ^ Rob Coppinger (10 May 2010). "Does US need $1bn hypersonic test area after HTV-2 failure?". www.flightglobal.com. London. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  7. ^ a b http://articles.latimes.com/2012/apr/20/business/la-fi-mo-darpa-hypersonic-missile-20120420
  8. ^ "First Minotaur IV Lite launches from Vandenberg" Archived April 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. U.S. Air Force, 22 April 2010.
  9. ^ Little, Geoffrey (1 September 2007). "Mach 20 or Bust, Weapons research may yet produce a true spaceplane". Air & Space Magazine. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013.
  10. ^ Clark, Stephen. "New Minotaur rocket launches on suborbital flight". spaceflightnow.com, 23 April 2010.
  11. ^ Waterman, Shaun (22 July 2010). "Plane's flameout may end space weapon plan". Washington Times.
  12. ^ Waterman, Shaun (25 November 2010). "Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft". The Washington Times. Retrieved November 30, 2010.
  13. ^ "Pentagon's Hypersonic Aircraft Test Flight Delayed Due to Bad Weather". International Business Times. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  14. ^ Rosenberg, Zach (11 August 2011). "DARPA loses contact with HTV-2". Flight International. Archived from the original on 30 December 2011.
  15. ^ "DARPA HYPERSONIC VEHICLE ADVANCES TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE". DARPA. 11 August 2011. Archived from the original on 6 April 2014.
  16. ^ Norris, Guy (12 August 2011). "Review Board Sets Up to Probe HTV-2 Loss". Aviation Week. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Superfast Military Aircraft Hit Mach 20 Before Ocean Crash, DARPA Says". space.com. August 18, 2011.
  18. ^ Darpa Refocuses Hypersonics Research On Tactical Missions - Aviationweek.com, 8 July 2013

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