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U.S. Hypersonic Glider Sets a World Record of Mach 20, Then Crashes
Written by Daniel   
Friday, 30 April 2010 17:02

From Daily Tech

The HTV-2 set a world record speed of Mach 20 and successfully executed some maneuvers before abruptly losing communication with home base. The mission is being ruled a partial success.  (Source: U.S. Air Force)

It likely never reached its destination, Kwajalein Atoll, an island in the Pacific northeast of Australia.  (Source: Space For Peace)
Craft is being designed to strike enemies in far away regions like the Middle East in under an hour

NASA's X-43A (Hyper-X) test vehicle currently holds the record for the fastest aircraft.  Back in November 2004, it achieved a speed close to Mach 10 (12,000km/hr or 7,000mph).  That's well into the hypersonic range, which starts at Mach 5.

For the Air Force and U.S. Armed Forces, it's highly desirable to develop hypersonic aircraft.  Such designs could offer strikes in under an hour from the U.S. to anywhere in the world.  Many in the armed forces view hypersonic strike-craft as a potentially game-changing weapon in the fight against terrorism.

On Tuesday the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) tested a new design, the HTV-2.  The HTV-2 is classified as a hypersonic glider.  To get it up to its extreme target speed of Mach 20, it is first launched to the edge of space aboard a Minotaur IV Lite solid fuel rocket.  

Once at the edge of space the craft detaches and screams down towards its target.  Its thin wedge-shaped body is designed to produce greater lift.  It is protected against the extreme heat  it will encounter by carbon-carbon material used in the body, the same material used in carbon brakes and Space Shuttle tiles.

On Tuesday the craft embarked on its first test flight, launching from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  The craft was to fly across the Pacific Ocean before landing at its target, Kwajalein Atoll, a tiny island in a chain of islands northeast of Australia known as the Marshall Islands.  Kwajaleien is approximately 4,800 miles from VAFB.
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