Well, that was quick. The US military has lost all contact with a hypersonic aircraft that the Pentagon hoped would clock in as the fastest vehicle every created, officials said.
The unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) is said to have the capability of traveling at a staggering 20 times the speed of sound, or 13,000 MPH. At this mind-blowing pace, the HTV-2 could theoretically travel from Los Angeles to New York City in just 12 minutes. The same flight on a commercial jet takes approximately six hours.
The doomed test flight of the HTV-2 started at the Vandenberg Air Force base near Lompoc, California. According to the Twitter feed of the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the launch was going well, with the HTV-2 on course and sending data. About 20 minutes after takeoff, however, DARPA reported that it had lost contact with the HTV-2.
“Range assests have lost telemetry with #HTV2. More to follow,” the fateful tweet said.
DARPA scientists waited 45 minutes before tweeting, “Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry.” They added: #HTV2 has an autonomous flight termination capability,” which means the craft will crash itself into the ocean if it loses contact and flies out of control.
The military tested an earlier version of the HTV-2 in April of 2010. They lost contact with that aircraft only nine minutes into its initial test flight.
The Defense Department is developing the super-sonic drone as part of its mission to have an aircraft capable of reaching anywhere on the planet within only an hour. If the HTV-2 had worked, it would have served as a major step toward that goal, having been able to fly from London, England, to Sydney, Australia — a 10,500 mile trip — in under 60 minutes. Oh well, maybe next year.