US puzzled after hypersonic plane fails

2011-08-13 16:03

Washington - Pentagon scientists on Friday acknowledged they were puzzled by the failed flight test of an experimental hypersonic plane and said they were trying to understand what went wrong.

About nine minutes after separating from a rocket on Thursday, researchers lost contact with the unmanned aircraft, a prototype global bomber designed to travel at 20 times the speed of sound.

"More than nine minutes of data was collected before an anomaly caused loss of signal," the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), the US military's research arm, said in a statement.

"Initial indications are that the aircraft impacted the Pacific Ocean along the planned flight path," it said.

The Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) is part of "Prompt Global Strike" - a US military effort to develop bombers that can strike targets with conventional weapons anywhere on the planet within minutes.

Thursday's flight marked a second disappointment for the project. Researchers lost track of the aircraft minutes after it separated from a rocket in a test flight last year as well.

"Here’s what we know," said Major Chris Schulz, programme manager for the HTV-2.

"We know how to boost the aircraft to near space. We know how to insert the aircraft into atmospheric hypersonic flight. We do not yet know how to achieve the desired control during the aerodynamic phase of flight," he said.

"It’s vexing; I’m confident there is a solution. We have to find it," the Air Force officer said.

"We'll learn, we'll try again. That's what it takes."

But Darpa said that trying to manage "high-Mach flight in the atmosphere is virtually uncharted territory."

The research agency said a team of experts would analyse flight data and address the main technical problems, which it described as aerodynamic, aerothermal, guidance, navigation and control.

  • umhlopo - 2011-08-13 17:12

    use malema as your next test piolot

      Juliaas - 2011-08-13 17:44

      He wont fly it he will steal it.

      Brieuse - 2011-08-13 19:28

      yes please

      letsee - 2011-08-14 16:18

      Oh please be reasonable, Malema is not a pilot.

      Phlegm - 2011-08-14 16:26

      There are rumours that he may be a poepol pilot!

      pitbull - 2011-08-14 22:20

      Just strap him in and feed him peanuts and we will call him Abel or Baker

  • Jacobus - 2011-08-13 18:37

    Go fly your sh*t on some other planet. At 20 000km/h that thing can fall anywhere, especially if you have no control ofer it. Lookout twin towers... some over-eager lab cientist behind the sticks...

      Jacobus - 2011-08-13 18:41

      It flies so fast, 20 times the speed of a bullet, you wont see it go past you, but you will hear the sound an hour later. It will cover tha distance from Cape Town to JHB in 4 minutes... how you want to control that?

      Jacobus - 2011-08-13 18:47

      You will hear the sound 20 HOURS later, gosh it is a lot to apprehend. Crossing from here to the USA in 18 minutes.

      ANCrCriminal - 2011-08-13 19:15

      rember (idiot) 20kmh was thought to be to fast.....if you cant keep up with the future,tough! - 2011-08-14 09:14

      Jacobus: To the uneducated, even the most basic science appears as magic.

      JuanH - 2011-08-14 10:11

      "You will hear the sound 20 HOURS later". You clearly don't understand physics. Maybe that is why this thing scares you so much? It says this plane flies 20 times faster than sound, not that it slows down the speed of sound by 20 times. If this thing flies 100 meters over head, you will still hear it within moments.

      Looter - 2011-08-14 15:14

      with one hell of a sonic BOOOM!

  • Mike_L - 2011-08-13 21:10

    The shape is all wrong! Have they learnt nothing from our extraterrestrial visitors? The SAUCER is the correct design! :-)

      The_Rock - 2011-08-14 11:16

      Mike you really need to get in contact with the Pentagon urgently they need experts like you .

  • letsee - 2011-08-14 16:17

    Lately the USA has shown that it's not such a great country. Tom Peters said many years ago that the USA was the best by default and as soon as a competotor showed up it lost front page status.

  • pitbull - 2011-08-14 22:19

    Why not send the whole of the ANC on the test flight.

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