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'Shockwaves generated by high speed caused 13,000-mph test flight to roll abruptly'

Washington, Sun, 22 Apr 2012 ANI

Washington, Apr 22(ANI): The Pentagon report of a 13,000-mph test flight over Pacific as said high speed caused portions of the aircraft's skin to peel from the aerostructure and the resultant gaps created strong shock waves, causing the vehicle to roll over abruptly.

The Pentagon's research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had earlier conducted a 13,000-mph test flight over Pacific that would that would provide it with a lightning-fast vehicle, which is capable of delivering a military strike anywhere in the world in less than an hour, The Los Angeles Times reports.

But the unmanned aircraft dubbed as Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, had blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, northwest of Santa Barbara, into the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere aboard an eight-story Minotaur IV rocket made by Orbital Sciences Corp.

The aircraft jettisoned from its protective cover atop the rocket, nose-dived back toward Earth, leveled out and glided above the Pacific at 20 times the speed of sound.

The plan was for the Falcon to speed westward for about 30 minutes before plunging into the ocean near Kwajalein Atoll, about 4,000 miles from Vandenberg, but it was ended about nine minutes into flight for unknown reasons.

The Falcon, which is built by Lockheed Martin Corp., is made of durable carbon composite material, which was expected to keep the aircraft's crucial internal electronics and avionics only a few inches away from the surface and safe from the fiery hypersonic flight.

"The initial shock wave disturbances experienced during second flight, from which the vehicle was able to recover and continue controlled flight, exceeded by more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand. That's a major validation that we're advancing our understanding of aerodynamic control for hypersonic flight," DARPA Acting Director Kaigham J. Gabriel said. (ANI)


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