An unmanned hypersonic glider developed for US defense research into super-fast global strike capability was launched atop a rocket early today, but contact was lost after the experimental craft began flying on its own, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said. There was no immediate information on how much of the mission's goals were achieved, but DARPA promises updates on its Twitter feed. It was the second of two planned flights of a Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2. Contact was also lost during the first mission.
The HTV-2 is intended to put theory, simulations, and wind tunnel experience to the test in real flight conditions at speeds producing temperatures in the thousands of degrees and requiring extremely fast control systems, according to DARPA. The first HTV-2 was launched on April 22, 2010. It returned nine minutes of data, including 139 seconds of aerodynamic data at speeds between 17 and 22 times the speed of sound. (Read more DARPA stories.)