If everything goes as planned, Pentagon will be gifted with a lightning-fast vehicle capable of delivering a military strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
The arrow-shaped unmanned Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (FTVH2) is scheduled to be launched between 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. PDT on Wednesday by an eight-story Minotaur IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The rocket will puncture the atmosphere and releases FTVH2. Then the super-fast weapon will glide over the Pacific Ocean at nearly 20 times the speed of sound. The test flight will last 30 minutes before the FHTV2 hit the water and sink near the Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,100 miles from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.
If the aircraft can complete its 30 minute flight, the project will continue otherwise the project will be shelved indefinitely.
The first HTV-2 was launched in April 2010 but it disappeared over the Pacific after just nine minutes of flight and the vehicle was never recovered. A design flaw was suspected by engineers as the cause of the malfunction.
“The first flight was used to improve aerodynamic models and to optimize the vehicle design and trajectory for flight two,” said the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is funding the program, Los Angeles Times reported.
“We need to increase our technical knowledge to support future hypersonic technology development. We gained valuable data from the first flight, made some adjustments based on the findings of an engineering review board to improve this second flight, and now we’re ready to put all of that to the test,” said Dave Neyland, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
DARPA and Lockheed Martin Corp. built both FHTVs. If the government doesn't provide more funding the scheduled second flight of the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 will be its last test.
DARPA's Falcon HTV-2 Launch Phase
Falcon HTV-2 Re-entry Phase
Falcon HTV-2 Glide Phase
Falcon HTV-2 Terminal Phase