DARPA Tested Hypersonic Glider Related to Quick-Response Global Strike System, and Then Claims to Have Lost Contact with It

April 24th, 2010

There has been a lot of coverage of the launch of the X-37b, but as the right hand was waving at us, did you notice what the left hand was up to?

The same day, the U.S. launched a Minotaur rocket that reportedly carried a Hypersonic Test Vehicle, which is a test platform for the Prompt Global Strike program. This is from DARPA:

Falcon HTV-2

The Falcon program objectives are to develop and demonstrate hypersonic technologies that will enable prompt global reach missions. The technologies include high lift-to-drag techniques, high temperature materials, precision navigation, guidance, and control, communications through plasma, and an autonomous flight safety system. Leveraging technology developed under the Hypersonic Flight (HyFly) program, Falcon will address the implications of hypersonic flight and reusability using a series of hypersonic technology vehicles (HTVs) to incrementally demonstrate these required technologies in flight. The HTV-2 program will demonstrate enabling hypersonic technologies for future operational systems through rocket-boosted hypersonic flights with sufficient cross-range and down-range performance to evaluate thermal protection systems, aerodynamic shapes, maneuverability, and long-range communication for hypersonic cruise and re-entry vehicle applications. Technologies developed under Falcon would also allow for a low cost, responsive Small Launch Vehicle (SLV) capable of launching small satellites into low earth and sun synchronous orbits and will provide the nation a new, small payload access to space capability. The Falcon program addresses many high priority mission areas and applications such as global presence and space lift.

I took a look around to see if there were any new (public) developments with regard to Prompt Global Strike.

This recent piece from the New York Times states that an early version of the system wouldn’t be deployed until 2014 or 2015, but that the full package wouldn’t be ready until 2017 to 2020:

The Pentagon hopes to deploy an early version of the system by 2014 or 2015. But even under optimistic timetables, a complete array of missiles, warheads, sensors and control systems is not expected to enter the arsenal until 2017 to 2020, long after Mr. Obama will have left office, even if he is elected to a second term.

But look back on the statement from U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on 11 April 2010 on Meet the Press:

We have, in addition to the nuclear deterrent today, a couple of things we didn’t have in the Soviet days. We have missile defense now, and that’s growing by leaps and bounds every year; significant budget increase for that this year, both regional and the ground-based interceptors. And we have prompt global strike affording us some conventional alternatives on long-range missiles that we didn’t have before.

We have Prompt Global Strike?

That’s interesting.

So, which is it? Is a Prompt Global Strike capability as far away as 2020, as we read in the New York Times, and other mainstream publications that mention the program, or is it, “We have prompt global strike”?

Now, DARPA claims to have lost contact with the Hypersonic Test Vehicle…


So, what did it go on to do after DARPA claims to have lost contact with it?

Via: Space Flight Now:

A new Minotaur launch vehicle derived from retired missile parts successfully blasted off from the California coast Thursday, but officials lost contact with a hypersonic glider testbed for a U.S. military quick-response global strike system.

A small winged glider designed by Pentagon researchers was the payload for Thursday’s launch. The craft, called the Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2a, apparently did not complete all of its planned maneuvers to demonstrate new hypersonic flight systems.

“Preliminary review of technical data indicates the Minotaur Lite launch system successfully delivered the Falcon HTV 2 glide vehicle to the desired separation conditions,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said in a statement. “The launch vehicle executed first of its kind energy management maneuvers, clamshell payload fairing release and HTV 2 deployment.”

The HTV 2a payload launched Thursday separated from the Minotaur high in the upper atmosphere at a velocity more than 20 times the speed of sound.

But tracking assets lost contact with the triangle-shaped craft 9 minutes after liftoff. “An engineering team is reviewing available data to understand this event,” DARPA said in a written statement.

After its release from the Minotaur third stage, the craft was designed to try out its aerodynamic control system and conduct sweeping turns to bleed off excess energy and demonstrate its cross-range capabilities.

The DARPA press release did not specify whether any of the test maneuvers were completed before controllers lost communications with the craft.

The HTV 2a was supposed to glide over the Pacific Ocean at more than 13,000 mph and splash down in the sea near the U.S. Army’s Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll.

The HTV program is managed by DARPA, a Pentagon research and development division focusing on high-tech demonstrations.

Officials say the HTV demonstrations were supposed to test enabling technologies that could eventually be employed by an operational system capable of prompt global response missions.

DARPA says the HTV craft features a high lift-to-drag aerodynamic shape, lightweight thermal protection structures and autonomous guidance, control and flight safety systems.

The HTV was built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

More: Pentagon Looks to Revive Nazi Space-Bomber Plan

2 Responses to “DARPA Tested Hypersonic Glider Related to Quick-Response Global Strike System, and Then Claims to Have Lost Contact with It”

  1. dt Says:

    “alternatives on long-range missile”

    Isn’t it odd the effort expended in alternatives to long-range missiles? The solid rocket booster is now fifty year old technology, relatively cheap, accurate and very hard to shoot down. So why the long-line of alternatives, starting at the XB-70, via the stealth bomber, now arriving at Global Strike?

    What can these do that the long-range missile can’t?

  2. scrod Says:

    What can these do that the long-range missile can’t?

    Rack up billions of dollars in profits for private contractors in their effort to develop ever more unnecessarily complicated delivery systems?

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