US military loses contact with experimental hypersonic vehicle

The US military has apparently lost contact with an experimental hypersonic vehicle over the Pacific Ocean.   

According to Turner Brinton of Space News, the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV)-2 was the “first in a series of flight experiments” planned to demonstrate technology that could be deployed in future long-range conventional missiles.

“[The vehicle] was launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., atop a Minotaur 4 rocket. Built by Lockheed Martin Corp., the HTV-2 craft was supposed to glide over the Pacific Ocean at speeds exceeding 20,000 kilometers per hour for as long as 30 minutes,” explained Brintion.

“Nine minutes after launch, however, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) lost contact with the craft, and the cause of the failure is still unknown. There is [only] one remaining HTV-2 craft.”

However, Frank James of NPR noted that the early days of most defense-related, high-tech military projects were “typically marked” by some sort of failure.

“The infant US space program in the late 1950s saw the failures of the Vanguard rocket program. So it’s no surprise that the military’s test last week of its Falcon space glider meant to test the concept of a hypersonic craft that could travel up to 20 times the speed of sound, more than 15,000 miles an hour, was a bust,” opined James.

“The idea is that such a craft could eventually allow US aircraft to reach hotspots anywhere on Earth within minutes.”