DARPA is preparing to launch its second Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle from Vandenberg today:
DARPA’s Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) program is a multiyear research and development effort to increase the technical knowledge base and advance critical technologies to make long-duration hypersonic flight a reality.
Data from the program informs policy, acquisition, and operations decisions for future Department of Defense Conventional Prompt Global Strike programs. Hypersonic data is collected through extensive modeling and simulation, wind-tunnel testing and two experimental flight tests. The ultimate goal is a capability that can reach anywhere in the world in less than an hour.
Falcon HTV-2 is an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds—Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 miles per hour). At HTV-2 speeds, flight time between New York City and Los Angeles would be less than 12 minutes. The HTV-2 vehicle is a “data truck” with numerous sensors that collect data in an uncertain operating envelope.
I don’t know that there’s any passenger carrying potential in the model, but the kinetics of a Mach 20 impact on a well-bunkered target would be a pretty interesting test of the old “irresistible force/immovable object” conundrum.
Test profile video here.