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A joint U.S. Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) project is moving speedily along—intended to fly to Mach 20, plus some.
The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle program is exploring high-speed air vehicles designed for rapid, around-the-world reach. Project goals are to develop hypersonic technology for a glided or powered system, as well as advance small, low cost, and responsive launch vehicles.
A Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle-1 (HTV-1) is now on the books for a less than one-hour flight in September 2007. Attaining Mach 19 (19 times the speed of sound), the glided air vehicle will briefly exit the Earth’s atmosphere and reenter flying between 19 and 28 miles above the Earth’s surface. This inaugural voyage of HTV-1 would end in the Pacific Ocean.
The Falcon HTV program is geared to showcase the ability of a craft to attain hypersonic speeds - ranging from 6,000 to 15,000 miles per hour (Mach 9 to Mach 22), and reach altitudes between 100,000 to 150,000 feet. To do so will necessitate an airframe structure designed to survive intense heat and pressure.
There are other partners participating in the demonstration program: NASA, the Space and Missile Systems Center, Sandia National Laboratories and the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Air Vehicles and Space Vehicles Directorates.