DARPA Falcon HTV-2 Hypersonic Vehicle to Launch from Vandenberg on Tuesday

Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle (HTV)

DARPA is set to launch its maneuverable, hypersonic Falcon HTV-2 test vehicle out of Vandenberg Air Force Base on Tuesday. The Lockheed Martin built vehicle — designed to fly at speeds of Mach 20 and above — will be launched aboard a Minotaur Lite rocket. It is set to fly about 4,100 nautical miles across the Pacific in less then 30 minutes before impacting in the ocean north of the Kwajalein Atoll. The goal of the project is to design weapons that will allow the U.S. to quickly respond to threats.

DARPA FACT SHEET

National Security Challenge

The U.S. military seeks the capability to respond, with little or no advanced warning, to threats to our national security anywhere around the globe.

Program Objective

DARPA’s Falcon HTV-2 program objective is to create new technological options that enable capabilities that address urgent threats to our national security. The program is developing and testing an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable, hypersonic air vehicle that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere, at incredibly fast speeds – Mach 20 and above.

Program Goal

The specific goal of the program is to conduct flight tests that demonstrate and validate technologies crucial to flight at hypersonic speeds. The first flight test, scheduled for April 20, 2010, is a rocket launch of a new gliding air vehicle known as HTV-2. Designed for DARPA by Lockheed Martin, the vehicle will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on an Orbital Sciences’ Minotaur IV Lite rocket. HTV-2 will be accelerated into the Earth’s upper atmosphere, separate from the rocket, descend into the atmosphere, and glide across the Pacific Ocean at more than 13,000 miles per hour. HTV-2 will reach its destination in less than 30 minutes and impact in the ocean north of the Reagan Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll, a distance of about 4,100 nautical miles.

The key technical challenges and achievements of the HTV-2 program are the design of an innovative high lift-to-drag aerodynamic shape, advanced lightweight but tough thermal protection structures, materials and fabrication technologies, autonomous hypersonic navigation guidance and control systems, and an autonomous flight safety system.

Critical Enabling Technologies

Critical enabling technologies include elements necessary for hypersonic aerothermodynamics, high-temperature materials and structures, the navigation guidance and control system, and thermal protection techniques. The program demands a multidisciplinary approach and relies on expertise in such areas as aerothermodynamics, materials science, hypersonic navigation, guidance and control systems, endo- and exo-atmospheric flight dynamics, telemetry, range safety analysis, and space launch.

Partnership with the Services

DARPA is working in cooperation with many Services and Agencies, including the U.S. Air Force, Missile Defense Agency, U.S. Navy and Army. The extensive flight data collected will increase the understanding of long-duration hypersonic vehicle flight and enable future advances in this technology area.

DARPA FALCON HTV-2 PROGRAM
Frequently Asked Questions

1. How many flights are in the HTV-2 program?

The HTV-2 program has two flights planned. Two flights are required to validate performance characteristics of HTV-2’s design including high temperature structures and materials, autonomous precision navigation, guidance, and control (NG&C), aerothermal performance, and an autonomous flight safety system.

2. Do the HTV-2 vehicles have onboard propulsion or are they unpowered?

HTV-2 is an unmanned, rocket-launched maneuverable hypersonic air vehicle (with no on-board propulsion system) that flies through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds – Mach 20 and above.

3. For the first HTV-2 flight (scheduled for April):

a. What role will the Minotaur IV Lite booster fill? To accelerate the HTV-2 to the needed speed and carry it to the needed altitude?

The Minotaur IV Lite rocket will provide the needed acceleration and altitude for the test. The Minotaur IV Lite is a modified Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that only uses the first three solid propellant stages.

The Minotaur IV Lite consists of three main vehicle sections: a government-furnished equipment 3-stage solid-propellant booster, guidance and control assembly, and a payload assembly. More detail is available at http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/Publications/Minotaur_IV_Fact.pdf

b. To what speed/Mach number will the Minotaur IV Lite booster accelerate the HTV-2?

HTV-2 will reach speeds of Mach 20 and above.

c. To what altitude will the Minotaur IV Lite booster carry the HTV-2?

Jettison of the third stage fairing and HTV-2 vehicle separation occur just outside the atmosphere at an altitude of several hundred thousand feet.

d. After booster/HTV-2 separation, will the HTV-2 maneuver or fly in a straight line?

Following separation, HTV-2 will use autonomous flight control to maneuver during the hypersonic glide portion of the test flight. Three types of maneuvers are planned for the HTV-2 flight test program:

  • Energy management maneuvers (the vehicle turns at moderate bank angles to bleed off excess energy)
  • Maneuvers to measure aerodynamic control characteristics (short pitch, roll and yaw maneuvers)
  • A dive maneuver to impact the ocean within the area defined by range safety as “safe.”

e. Will the HTV-2 splash in the ocean, impact land, or land like an airplane?

It will fly over the Pacific Ocean and impact into the broad ocean area (BOA) site north of the U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll/Reagan Test Site.

f. Will the HTV-2 be recovered after flight?

The HTV-2 will impact/splashdown in the broad ocean near Kwajalein 40 to 80 nautical miles north of Roi-Namur Island. The debris, primarily metal components, is expected to sink and DARPA does not plan to recover or reuse it.

g. How far will the HTV-2 fly? (please tell me if you are using nautical or statute miles)

Total mission range is approximately 4,100 nautical miles and the Falcon HTV-2 glides for approximately 3,100 nautical miles.

h. Where will the HTV-2 flight end? Near Kwajalein?

The HTV-2 will impact/splashdown in the broad ocean near Kwajalein 40 to 80 nautical miles north of Roi-Namur Island.

i. How long (from liftoff at Vandenberg AFB to HTV-2 splashhown/impact/landing) will the HTV-2 flight last?

The mission will last approximately 30 minutes.

j. What are the objectives of this flight?

DARPA seeks to improve on existing technologies that enable hypersonic flight by developing and testing the HTV-2, an unmanned, rocket-launched maneuverable hypersonic air vehicle that flies through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds – Mach 20 and above.

4. What is the purpose of the HTV-2 program?

The specific goal of the HTV-2 program is to accelerate development of technologies and capabilities that are essential to aircraft flight at hypersonic speeds, culminating in actual flight testing of a revolutionary new hypersonic aircraft – HTV-2.

The key technical challenges and achievements of the HTV-2 program to date are the design of an innovative high lift-to-drag aerodynamic shape, advanced lightweight but tough thermal protection structures, materials and fabrication technologies, autonomous hypersonic navigation guidance and control systems, and an autonomous flight safety system.