10:46am

Thu August 11, 2011
The Two-Way

DARPA Loses Contact With Experimental 'Hypersonic Glider'

Earlier this morning, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, launched an experimental hypersonic glider.

The Falcon HTV-2 was shot up on a rocket and right at the edge of space, it separated and glided through the atmosphere at 13,000 mph. The point of the experimental aircraft is to create one able to respond to threats quickly. As The Guardian describes it, the project was conceived in 2003 in attempt to create an aircraft to potentially deliver bombs to any part of the world in less than an hour.

But like one launched last year, the results of the flight were problematic.

DARPA tweeted its progress:

-- 10:48 a.m. ET. Confirmation of a successful #HTV2 separation from the Minotaur IV launch vehicle

-- 10:50 a.m. ET. Acquisition of signal of #HTV2 by Pacific Tracker.

-- 10:55 a.m. ET. #HTV2 mission is on track, entering glide phase. Learn more about the phases here:go.usa.gov/KwZ

But, then, came some some dramatic news:

-- 11:21 a.m. ET. Range assets have lost telemetry with #HTV2. More to follow

The vehicle was supposed to cruise through the atmosphere, roll around and then dive into the ocean. But a little before 12:30 p.m. ET, DARPA tweeted that it was never able to reacquire a signal to the device.

The AP reports that last year a similar vehicle was launched and a lot like this one was up in the air for about 9 minutes before contact was prematurely lost.

In its tweet, DARPA said the vehicle has the capability of terminating a flight on its own, so we suppose it's somewhere in the ocean by now. DARPA promised more information and we'll bring it to you as we get it.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.