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DARPA drops another HTV-2

To lose one is unfortunate, two looks like carelessness

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Whether or not the truth is out there somewhere, a couple of American hypersonic aircraft certainly are.

A little over a year after DARPA (motto: "Creating and preventing strategic surprise") lost the wow-that’s-fast Falcon HTV-2 on its first test flight, it’s managed to replicate the experiment perfectly, losing the second test vehicle on Thursday US time.

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As before, the mach 20-capable test vehicle was boosted successfully atop a Minotaur IV rocket, separated from its launch platform successfully, and disappeared successfully (although that last item probably wasn’t what the Pentagon had in mind).

This time, AFP reports that the Falcon managed to execute some maneuvers before it went missing, suggesting that its new centre of gravity and adjusted trajectory managed to stave off some of the possible causes of last year’s failed test flight.

Proving that it’s entered the Twitter age, DARPA posted on the microblogging site that “Range assets have lost telemetry with HTV2”. The US Air Force is hoping that it can develop the high-speed platform as a “global strike” capability that could reach any location on the planet within a few minutes.

The UK's Daily Telegraph quotes Air Force Major Chris Schultz as saying “We know how to boost the aircraft into near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We don’t yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight. It’s vexing. I’m confident there is a solution.”

DARPA says it managed to collect nine minutes of information before it lost Falcon’s signal, and believes the aircraft “impacted the Pacific Ocean along the planned flight path.” ®

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