Artist’s impression of the Falcon HTV-2 during its flight at Mach 22 (Source: Darpa).

The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) is an unmanned experimental rocket launched aircraft which has the capability to fly up to Mach 20 (21,000 km/h). Launched on top of a Minotaur IV Lite rocket, the HTV-2 vehicle carries various sensors to collect data about aerodynamics, aerothermal effects and critical guidance, navigation and control. From an aerodynamic point of view, the HTV-2 flies 22 times faster than a commercial jet, in an extreme pressure condition which is not yet fully understood. From a aerothermal point of view, the craft surface temperature reaches 2,000°C, enough to melt steal, while the internal electronics is kept around 32°C by a thin carbon composite shell. Finally,  the aircraft extreme velocity requires an incredible precision in guidance, navigation and control in order to detect disturbances and perform the required corrections.

HTV-2 flew two missions, one on Apr 22, 2010, and the second on August 11, 2011. Both missions ended prematurely 9 minutes into the flight. According to DARPA, the missions achieved the following remarkable objectives:

HTV-2 deployment (Source: DARPA).

– Providing the largest sea, land, air and space data collection assets in support of hypersonic flight test;
– Maintaining Global Positioning System (GPS) signals while traveling 3.6 miles per second;
– Validation of two-way communication with the vehicle;
– Verification of effective use of the Reaction Control System (RCS).

The HTV-2 is part of the DARPA Falcon Project (Force Application and Launch fromContinental United States), a research and development project conducted jointly by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the United States Air Force (USAF) to develop “prompt global strike” capability. By combining a reusable, rapid strike Hipersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) and a launch system  which could launch an HCV to cruise speed or to send small satellite into Earth orbit, the Falcon technology would provide the US with the capability of delivering a military strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

Falcon HTV-2 Flight Overview. Click on the link below to access the interactive page at DARPA (Source: Darpa).









Falcon HTV-2 Flight Overview


About the author

Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a content strategy consultant specialized in companies of the space sector. He is founder of Space Safety Magazine, where he held the position of Editor-in-Chief until March 2015. Between 2011 and 2013 he worked in the European Space Agency in the Independent Safety Office, which overviews the utilization of the International Space Station. He previously worked as Software Developer, IT Consultant, and trainer of Java-related technologies. Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in Communication of Science from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.