DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) program is a multiyear research and development effort to increase the technical knowledge base and advance critical technologies to make long-duration hypersonic flight a reality.
Data from the program informs policy, acquisition, and operations decisions for future Department of Defense Conventional Prompt Global Strike programs. Hypersonic data is collected through extensive modeling and simulation, wind-tunnel testing and two experimental flight tests. The ultimate goal is a capability that can reach anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
Falcon HTV-2 is an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds—Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 miles per hour). At HTV-2 speeds, flight time between New York City and Los Angeles would be less than 12 minutes. The HTV-2 vehicle is a “data truck” with numerous sensors that collect data in an uncertain operating envelope.
Mastery of three key technical challenges stands between the DoD and long-duration hypersonic flight: Aerodynamics; Aerothermal effects; and critical guidance, navigation and control.
HTV-2 flew its maiden flight on 22 Apr 2010, collecting nine minutes of unique flight data, including 139 seconds of Mach 22 to Mach 17 aerodynamic data.
Flight one achieved many “firsts”:
The second and final planned flight test is scheduled for August 2011. First flight lessons learned, high-speed wind tunnel testing and computer simulations were used to improve aerodynamic models and to optimize the vehicle design and trajectory for flight two.
The goal of the second flight is to validate current assumptions and increase technical understanding of the hypersonic flight regime. More than 20 test assets will collect continuous flight data to achieve this goal.
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