The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle II launched Aug. 11 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, near Lompoc, Calif., with a goal of splashing down nearly 4,900 miles away -- and 30 minutes later -- near The Marshal Islands, but that didn't quite work out. The test flight was the product of DARPA funding and Lockheed Martin production and the arrowhead-shaped glider was attached to an eight-story-tall Minotaur IV rocket. It is part of a system intended to reach speeds of up to Mach 20 to deliver a military strike anywhere on earth within one hour. In Thursday's test, like a prior test, telemetry was lost prematurely.
Thursday's test launched the Falcon into the Earth's upper atmosphere where it would have covered the bulk of the about 4,900 miles. If researchers figure out the system's faults, the vehicle should be able to leave from Los Angeles and pass Hawaii about 15 minutes later. On the test flight plan the vehicle was meant to make a sharp descent into the atmosphere and then level off. If proven, the system could cover the distance from Los Angeles to New York in 12 minutes. A previous test saw the vehicle travel for nine minutes before controllers lost contact. Data collected from the new test will be used to confirm theory and expand knowledge of hypersonic flight.