back to article DARPA drops another HTV-2

Whether or not the truth is out there somewhere, a couple of American hypersonic aircraft certainly are. A little over a year after DARPA (motto: "Creating and preventing strategic surprise") lost the wow-that’s-fast Falcon HTV-2 on its first test flight, it’s managed to replicate the experiment perfectly, losing the second …


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  1. Rebajas


    Good they sent it after the London riots, or else *some* might think that was what cause all them fires...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Water at Mach 20

      Is as soft as landing on a rock. A parachute wouldn't get you much luck either. To be fair, DARPA don't expect to recover these test vehicles, they just hope to keep them flying a bit longer. Somewhere near North Korea where the 'self-destruct' can do its business, for instance.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Maybe it wasn't a failure

      Perhaps they've actually perfected the technology, but for some bizarre reason they'd prefer the world to believe they're still struggling with it, so put out a couple of stories like this.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge

    What I can't figure out...

    Is a parachute and inflatable ocean recovery thingie that impossible? Or do they not want someone else having a chance to recover it first?

    1. Rob Carriere

      Their name might be legion

      At the speeds we're talking about, I suspect you might well need a great many very small parachutes and inflatables.

      The forces likely get large enough to tear the thing to shreds.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Just a suggestion

    Try checking my sisters basement, you'd be amazed at the things that turn up down there; I found BOTH the missing NASA Deep Space probes down there a couple of years ago, along with a hammer drill she borrowed from me 7 years ago!!

    1. Wommit
      Thumb Down

      Oh come on!!!!

      At least make your story believable.

      Finding your hammer drill indeed.

      I don't know.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    planned flight path

    -What's this blue line intersecting our trajectory?

    -Oh.. it's the ocean, sir.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: planned flight path

      You missed:

      - can you ask it to move?

      - this is the United States, please move your ocean out of our flight part

      - <silence....>

      1. The First Dave

        Re: AC

        Whose Ocean???

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


          Clearly, the unexpected and probably terrorist entity in our flight path, of course!

  5. Adrian 10

    reasonably good really?

    Isn't flying an aircraft at, or around, mach 20 for 9 minutes a reasonably good achievement? I don't get the title being so negative. My claims to fame today are not quite so impressive, although I did manage to not drink as much coffee as yesterday which I'm pleased about.

    1. bitmap animal

      at "reasonably good really?"

      That's what I thought when I heard about this on the news this morning. The reporter suggested that as this is the second one they've lost then surely the project should be scrapped.

      When you are pushing boundaries like this then surely it will take some substantial RandD efforts to get there.

      (Unless it was abducted by little green men trying to stop us going too fast....)

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: reasonably good really

      My impression was that they didn't manage to "fly" it at all, and that was the problem. It sounds like the "flight-path" in question (the one that was planned to intersect with the ocean) was more of a trajectory, in the ballistic sense. And that's much less impressive.

    3. bill 36
      Black Helicopters

      There is no evidence

      That it reached Mach anything

      1. usbac Silver badge

        @Bill 36

        I read somewhere else that it reached Mach 15 for several minutes.

      2. Eugene Goodrich

        They dropped it from space.

        I could drop a dead dog from sub-orbit and it would hit Mach-something.

        (Coat is for ashes of incinerated dead deorbited dogs, which I wouldna want on me.)

    4. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down

      No, not that good really.

      Its similar speeds to the shuttle. Which they've been flying more or less successfully for 30 odd years. I guess the main difference here is that they dont want it to slow down. Thats the difficult bit.

      As for Major Chris Schultz saying, "Were confident there is a solution," thats just cock waving. If he said anything else his funding would be cut.

      Im not so sure that there is a defined problem, let alone a solution. Don't get me wrong, Im all for space exploration and tech funding, but DARPA just seem to be and out of control money burning operation.

  6. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Nobody will see this coming

    Unfortunately no one can predict where it's going either.

    1. Annihilator


      Quantum weaponry, now there's an idea.. Depending on your view, it may increase or decrease their accuracy..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      So it's a knuckleball! Very effective.

      (apologies to our friends on the other side of the Atlantic, if this were a British Aerospace programme, I'd offer a cricket analogy).

      Mushroom cloud for obvious reasons.

  7. Blofeld's Cat

    Consistant performance

    Excellent. An almost exact repeat of the first trial.

    Here's your ISO 9001:2008 certificate.

    1. Maurice Shakeshaft

      they'd probably fail an audit and have certification withdrawn

      Procedures for corrective action and continuous improvement seem not to have been followed and requirements met. But I may be being pedantic...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perfectly fit for purpose

    Sounds like a total success. Zooms around at 13,000 mph for a while then lands somewhere. They want to be able to kill people at any location on the globe within an hour and this will do it. (What's that you said? - oh - you meant a *specific* any location on the globe - nah, don't worry about it. Dropping bombs on the wrong country doesn't usually worry the Merkin military. Bring on that pork barrel!)

  9. Natalie Gritpants
    Thumb Up

    It is rocket science

    The R in DARPA stands for research, that means things won't be predictable. This is how we make progress or are we all so old we have forgotten that we had to learn what we know.

    1. Craig Chambers

      Umm, isn't research all about predictions?

      I don't know about hardware engineering, but in the basis of scientific research *is* prediction. If your experiment is that unpredictable, then it's probably not very good science. Science generally deals in very small, but very accurate increments in the amount of knowledge that we have. There are very few paradigm shifts, or giant leaps.

      Admittedly in some cases the extrapolations used to make the prediction are wildly wrong, and some experiments suffer from lots of unknown variables, but this does not change the fact that scientific research relies on proving or disproving a prediction made with as much prior information as possible.

      I'm not saying that this DARPA experiment is bad science either, just refuting the idea that research deals with the unpredictable.

      1. David Dawson

        To be fair

        This is advanced fluid dynamics at extremely high speeds.

        If anything could reasonably be said to be unpredictable, this could.

        If only because we haven't done all that much in that field before. Hence the need to do lots of investigations into how things act in that environment.

      2. fearnothing

        Good science != learning everything from one mistake

        "If your experiment is that unpredictable, then it's probably not very good science."

        Make a 0.1% adjustment involving aerodynamics at 13,000km/h, and your results get unpredictable very fast. Good science doesn't mean that failing the first time tells you everything you need to know to succeed the second time.

      3. Graham Dawson Silver badge


        Science is:

        Postulate a hypothesis

        Generate possible experiments to test the validity of the hypothesis

        Run the experiments

        Measure the results

        Reject or adapt the hypothesis based on the results.

        The interesting part is that the results are not actually 100% predictable; a working scientific theory is simply a hypothesis that has not yet met a negative result. This DARPA experiment is entirely scientific, as it is attempting to experimentally verify the hypothetical behaviour of a particular design of craft at extremely high speeds. They've made a prediction of its behaviour based on their hypothesis of how this particular design might behave, and the prediction has... well, failed. But that's good science, as it has provided a large amount of empirical data to refine their hypothesis (in this case, the design of the craft) and update their predictions.

        You mentioned prior information. Where did that prior information come from? The only place it can have come from is experimentation, and given that this project is dealing with a field that is still largely hypothetical, they have to make these grand experiments to provide the necessary data to make their predictions with.

  10. Thomas 4

    Maybe Dune has the answer to this problem

    It reminds me of the problem the Spacing Guild had with trying to navigate their huge ships through folded space. There were so many variables and the reaction times needed were astronomically fast - far beyond those of a human. As we lack melange on this planet, perhaps an entirely computer controlled system would be able to make the minute and fast navigation adjustments needed.

  11. sandman

    Only way to test

    Just hearing that since you can't test at much above Mach13 in a wind tunnel the only way to do so is for real. I'm quite impressed they've got it working for so long.

  12. _Erik

    It's been found

    It's at Paddington station, in a small leather bag.

    1. _Erik


      Or was it Victoria?

      1. Andus McCoatover

        "The line is immaterial!"

        Thanks, Lady Bracknell.

        (Oscar Wilde, the Importance of Being Earnest)

      2. Pseu Donyme


        ... leatherette.

  13. Steven 1
    Black Helicopters


    What's the anticipated payload capacity of this sort of thing? Or is it simply a case of it IS the payload as anything travelling at those sort of speeds hitting the ground is going to deliver such kinetic energy that it'll cause such sufficient mayhem no war head is really required?

  14. embraman

    If this is an article about DARPA...

    ...why is it not written by Lewis Page? Not a single mention of boffins or boffinry. Disappointed.

    1. Christoph Hechl

      he is still busy

      I guess Lewis is still working out, how to describe this as a major success for the US military and how this goes to show just how much the rest of the world needs to catch up.

      Probably a few more random references to projects with important sounding names will do.

    2. Knoydart

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      Time differences Sir. This one is penned by El Reg´s upside down bureau (located on the west Island)

      Penguin cos there´s no skippy icon

  15. Richard Brown

    So impatient

    Compare and contrast this current attempt at high speed flight with the first attempts to fly faster than the speed of sound. How long did that take, how many attempts, how much money, how many pilots died?

    I am not convinced that the Space Shuttle can be used as a valid comparison, it is a glider not a powered aircraft and relies on an orbital manoeuvring system for control for most of its flight. The only time it it is hypersonic is during orbit, where aerodynamics are irrelevant and during the first part of its decent, when it is trying to shed speed as quickly as possible in the upper atmosphere.

    1. annodomini2

      Re: So impatient

      I agree it's research.

      This is a glider, it was rocket boosted to altitude and 13,000mph, then set free.

      True, the shuttle does have a mass ejection reaction control system, but there are no real details on the control system this is using.

      This was in the upper atmosphere, otherwise it would have vaporised.

      This is a research program looking at (at least) 2 things:

      1. Thermal control (Can we fly something at this speed and not be destroyed by heat)

      2. Hypersonic flight controls.

      The shuttle is probably a falling brick until a certain altitude and velocity.

      1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: a falling brick

        "The shuttle is probably a falling brick until a certain altitude and velocity."

        As it happens, when the shuttle and I were both young, the claim was that the shuttle came down slightly /faster/ than a brick because it was more aerodynamic.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          a falling brick...

          I heard (more than once) that the Shuttle was basically a brick with wings, nevertheless. And the nose cone (can you call it a cone?) is as blunt as possible (like the apolo capsule), so it can withstand as much friction and heat as possible, and displace as much atmosphere as possible, so creating the braking effect of a parachute. A mach-20 parachute.

          Now that's a counter-intuitive notion, (the nose being blunt), but it makes total sense since the Apolo capsule landings proved it correct...

          Yes, I saw the movie Space Cowboys, but that was just *one* of the sources.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Okay, that's two tests

    time to send up a third one just to be absolutely sure it doesn't bloody work

  17. Yag

    "A little over a year after DARPA...

    ... lost the wow-that’s-fast Falcon HTV-2 on its first test flight, it’s managed to replicate the experiment perfectly, losing the second test vehicle on Thursday US time."

    Thanks for reminding me why I am reading El Reg :)

    1. Lonesome Twin

      Refreshingly different

      BBC Version: [US military scientists lost contact with an unmanned hypersonic experimental aircraft on its second test flight, officials said.

      The Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) successfully separated from its rocket but lost contact shortly into its "glide phase".]

      Come the revolution, all Aunties journo's are hereby fired.

  18. lawndart


    So, do we cross this design off the list for Vulture 2 or do we deliberately construct Vulture 2 as a copy of the Falcon design to wierd DARPA out?

    1. Christoph Hechl

      new research...

      If Vulture 2 goes hypersonic, with whatever kind of budget El Reg can come up with, DARPAs next field of research will most likely be plausible explanations about where all that money went...

      On the other hand, i guess they already have a lab for that.

  19. breakfast Silver badge

    Quick R&D turnaround?

    "The US Air Force is hoping that it can develop the high-speed platform as a “global strike” capability that could reach any location on the planet within a few minutes."

    Given that it's a year since the last trial and they lost that as well, suggesting they can develop this high speed platform within a few minutes seems a trifle ambitious.

  20. Anonymous Coward


    This isn't flying, its falling with style

  21. Anonymous Coward

    It wasn't lost

    It was nicked by looters!

    1. Dan 37


      Not to worry though, it'll turn up on ebay or craigslist in a couple of days described as an unwanted birthday present.

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. NomNomNom


    money could have been wasted more efficiently bailing out the banks

  24. AbnormalChunks

    RE: “global strike” capability that could reacion on the planet within a few minutes.

    The US already have that... They're called ICBMs! Swap the nuclear warheads for some concrete or conventional explosives and there you go...

  25. Jordan 6

    Who's in charge?

    What's the current US debt level at right now .. ?

  26. Graham Bartlett

    @Ian Emery

    So your sister has two deep probes in her basement space, does she? And what were you doing down there anyway?

    A hammer drill is just showing off, though.

  27. Anonymous Coward


    ...has anyone told DARPA the earth is round not flat, maybe that's why they lost contact.

  28. 4ecks

    Smokescreen story...

    They did manage to open a hyperspace window successfully, but don't know where it came out.

  29. Adrian Esdaile

    "capability that could reach any location on the planet within a few minutes."

    They just aren't sure which location.

    You would think that with 100% loss results after two tests that you might think in this day & age that DARPA would have a clue as to what is going wrong, or that the design is a bit stuffed.

    Oh, sorry, I forgot, it's DARPA.

    More like DERPA

  30. JadedIdealist

    Not sad.

    Considering this is an alternative means to deliver first strike nucwear veapons,

    I for one am not particularly dissapointed that it won't be ready for the Tea Partiers should they take over in the US.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Calling Lester

    DARPA really need to get some advice from the Reg's combined space command and donkey sanctuary.

    My guess is they'll find the centre of gravity was off by the weight of one Playmobilnaut.

  32. Ray 8


    in ancient egypt.

  33. IT veteran
    Black Helicopters

    The real reason is...

    They've been nicked by a Bond-style super-villain.

    I for one support our SPECTRE overlords.

  34. Dave 32
    Thumb Up

    Project Engineer

    Err, was the project engineer's name perhaps Zefram Cochrane?


  35. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Joking aside I'll remind people of Spacex

    3 launches

    3 Failures

    4th launch. Success.

    Mind you I'd hoped for a bit of an improvement and some "Lessons learned" being applied.

    And some would argue that flying M20 *inside* the atmosphere is *lots* harder than just getting to orbit It's like all the problems of re-entry *continuously*.

    Better luck next time?.

  36. HMcG

    They need a navigator!

    Vnimanie! Oblegni se! Chui me!

  37. Leeroy

    Meanwhile, in a paralell dimension.

    Another alien craft has appeared out of nowhere travelling at a speed faster than is thought to be possible.

    It was witnessed by passengers in a zepplin who commented "it seemed to do a barell roll followed by a loop the loop leaving a trail of flames in its wake.

    It then deployed some sort of large gravity arresting device believed to me made from a very light and strong fabric of some discription and was suspended beneath it before touching down in the ocean.

    The Defence Against Research Proliferation Agency is investigating.

  38. Dropper
    Thumb Up

    Once again

    Another classic Reg line "disappeared successfully".. sheer brilliance, I salute you..

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