X-43A (Hyper-X) test vehicle currently holds the record for the
fastest aircraft. Back in November 2004, it achieved a speed
close to Mach 10 (12,000km/hr or 7,000mph). That's well into
the hypersonic range, which starts at Mach 5.For the Air
Force and U.S. Armed Forces, it's highly desirable to
aircraft. Such designs could offer strikes in under an hour
from the U.S. to anywhere in the world. Many in the armed
forces view hypersonic strike-craft as a potentially game-changing
weapon in the fight against terrorism.On Tuesday the Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tested a new design, the
HTV-2. The HTV-2 is classified as a hypersonic glider. To
get it up to its extreme target speed of Mach 20, it is first
launched to the edge of space aboard a Minotaur IV Lite solid fuel
rocket. Once at the edge of space the craft
detaches and screams down towards its target. Its thin
wedge-shaped body is designed to produce greater lift. It is
protected against the extreme heat it will encounter by
carbon-carbon material used in the body, the same material used in
carbon brakes and Space Shuttle tiles.On Tuesday the
on its first test flight, launching from Vandenberg Air
Force Base in California. The craft was to fly across the
Pacific Ocean before landing at its target, Kwajalein Atoll, a tiny
island in a chain of islands northeast of Australia known as the
Marshall Islands. Kwajaleien is approximately 4,800 miles from
VAFB.Launching on its 30 minute journey everything seemed to
be going perfectly. The craft boosted to near-space, then
detached successfully. It hurtled towards Earth, performing the
prescribed maneuvers as it went. And according to DARPA
spokeswoman Joanna Jones it "achieved controlled flight within
the atmosphere at over Mach 20" -- a new world record.Then
at nine minutes, during the final stages of maneuvers disaster
struck. Something happened and the craft abruptly stopped
responding to the Air Force.That set back may spell trouble
for the cash-strapped hypersonic test program. The hypersonic
strike-craft are currently competing with two other technologies.
One alternative is to repurpose ballistic missiles to carry
non-nuclear payloads. However, this runs the risk of nuclear
nations mistaking the missile for a nuke and initiating a
counter-strike. Another option is to use
cruise missile that can travel at Mach 5 or Mach 6.
This program, like the hypersonic glider, seems promising, but has
been dealt a setback, with tests pushed back from December 2009 to
May 2010.Still, despite the setback the glider may be the
best option, if DARPA can fine-tune its design. Dr.
Mark Lewis, the former chief scientist of the Air Force,
comments, "There’s always a concern that a conventional
warhead on an ICBM might be confused with a nuclear device - what can
you do to prove otherwise? With a high lift vehicle, your trajectory
would be so different that no one would likely confuse it with
something more sinister."The HTV-2 is only the second
major experimental aircraft to launch in the last two weeks.
Last week the X-37B
unmanned space shuttle was launched by the Air Force into
orbit on a super-secret mission.
quote: can anyone calculate the amount of friction/drag per square inch that is created by traveling at this speed?
quote: We were working on something neat for a while, it was called "Star Wars,"
quote: I think you overestimate the forces involved.
quote: Speed of projectile: roughly 10 km/s (22,000 mph)
quote: To get it up to its extreme target speed of Mach 20, it is first launched to the edge of space aboard a Minotaur IV Lite solid fuel rocket.
quote: As far as I could find, these rockets are 12.500 million a pop and that is a hell of a lot to pay for expediency of payload.Even if they intend to use this hypersonic beast, they are surely going to need a much more cost effective lift vehicle.
quote: If the USAF doesn't know where it crashed, or why, then that means the craft is either floating at sea, or landed somewhere on land.
quote: The more you load into the case
quote: The craft was to fly across the Pacific Ocean before landing at its target, Kwajalein Atoll, a tiny island in a chain of islands northeast of Australia known as the Marshall Islands.
quote: One alternative is to repurpose ballistic missiles to carry non-nuclear payloads. However, this runs the risk of nuclear nations mistaking the missile for a nuke and initiating a counter-strike.