The Air Force's Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2—designed to attack global targets at Mach 20—has disappeared nine minutes into its first test flight, just after separating from its booster. Contact was lost, and it hasn't been found yet.
The Falcon was supposed to splash down in the Pacific Ocean after a 30-minute, 4,100-nautical-mile test flight. Not to be confused with the unmanned X-37B space shuttle—which launched on April 22—the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 blasted off last week from the Vandenberg Air Force Base on a Minotaur IV rocket.
Instead of completing its flight, however, the Air Force lost all contact with the aircraft. According to DARPA's Johanna Spangenberg Jones:
Preliminary review of data indicates the HTV-2 achieved controlled flight within the atmosphere at over Mach 20. Then contact with HTV-2 was lost. This was our first flight (all others were done in wind tunnels and simulations) so although of course we would like to have everything go perfectly, we still gathered data and can use findings for the next flight, scheduled currently for early 2011.
Just that: The telemetry data signal vanished, and the aircraft is nowhere to be found. Being a semi-secret project, nothing else has been disclosed. The only logical explanations are 1) a massive structural failure, 2) Nazi UFOs or 3) somebody lost it in a beer garden. I will pick number two for the time being.
The hypersonic glider is built by Lockheed Martin under a DARPA program. It's designed to launch conventional weapons against any target in the planet in just one hour. This capability makes it a perfect substitute for Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. Unlike ICBMs loaded with conventional heads, the plane can't be mistaken with a nuclear missile, so it won't make other nuclear powers to hit the red button. Maybe. [Physorg]