There are several hypersonic crafts under development, and they could greatly alter the way that we travel. Indeed, many of these designs have already provided valuable insights into how we can quickly and efficiently get from one side of the globe to the other.
For example, the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) is a prototype for an unmanned military aircraft, and the DARPA team behind the tech claims that it is the fastest ever built. According to Lockheed-Martin, the speeds that this craft was designed for are remarkable. They assert that, "at HTV-2 speeds, flight time between New York City and Los Angeles would be less than 12 minutes."
In previously conducted tests, DARPA assert that the craft already managed to travel at 20 times the speed of sound during a test flight. And this isn't just an anomaly. It maintained this speed for about three minutes before experiencing a technical problem...and then it crashing into the Pacific Ocean.
It was the second-ever test flight for this aircraft, and its splashdown occurred on Aug. 11, 2011.
Several days after the crash, DARPA director Regina Dugan confirmed the speeds, saying, "HTV-2 demonstrated stable, aerodynamically controlled Mach 20 hypersonic flight for approximately three minutes." According to DARPA, the HTV-2 encountered an anomaly of undetermined origin, and the vehicle's autonomous flight safety system engaged, directing the aircraft to initiate a controlled splashdown.
At the present juncture, reports say that no further tests will be made with the HTV-2, but not because we have given up. Rather, DARPA asserts that they have gathered the intelligence necessary from the HTV-2, and will use the data gathered to improve hypersonic flight.
DARPA reported that, despite the unplanned splashdown, they were able to procure more than nine minutes of data from the entire mission.
The Rational Behind the Tech
Conventional Prompt Global Strike is an advanced weapons program, of which the HTV-2 is a part. It is working to develop weapon systems that can reach any enemy target anywhere in the world within an hour. The program launches a rocket high into the atmosphere. The rocket then comes rushing back to the Earth’s surface at incredible speeds, generating temperatures up to 1,930 Celsius (3,500 degrees Fahrenheit) in the process.
In June of this year, the Chinese Defense Ministry confirmed their own fourth test of a hypersonic nuclear delivery vehicle (though a lot of information surrounding it is rumored). The Washington Free Beacon reported that China’s defense ministry stated, "The scheduled scientific research and experiments in our territory are normal, and those tests are not targeted at any country and specific goals."
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool, a Marine Corps spokesman, confirmed that the test took place. And he told the Washington Free Beacon:
We routinely monitor foreign defense activities and we are aware of this test. However, we don't comment on our intelligence or assessments of foreign weapon systems. We encourage greater transparency regarding their defense investments and objectives to avoid miscalculation.
The hypersonic glide vehicle ‘Wu-14’ can reportedly travel up to 10 times the speed of sound. And hopefully, this tech can be used to for beneficial purposes related to travel and exploration.