Last August Lockheed Martin, the Air Force, and DARPA tested the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2), which traveled 20 times the speed of sound and could hypothetically deliver a bomb anyplace on the planet inside one hour.
It was a spectacular failure that was much publicized by the press, but no details about what went wrong were made available — until now.
DARPA released its analysis of the ill-fated flight and says the high speeds prompted portions of the craft’s skin to peel away from the shell and cause strong shockwaves around the vehicle as it flew at 13,000 miles per hour.
The flight used knowledge from an April 2010 flight that enhanced its performance, allowing it to fly at Mach 20 for almost three minutes, and delivered new data that will be used to develop better thermal-protective materials.
After nine minutes, the vehicle’s system noticed an unrecoverable anomaly that sent it into a controlled splashdown in the ocean, far shy of its intended target near the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific.
As no upcoming HTV flights have been announced, all we’re left with in the meantime is the following video of the last test flight.
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