First there was news of the launch of the X-37B; this news was covered in my article entitled: ‘X-37B Launched with Mystery Mission.’
Then I read an article posted on timesonline.co.uk on 4/24/10 with the headline: ‘Launch of secret US space ship masks even more secret launch of new weapon.’
The last three paragraphs of this article sounded even more mysterious. It talked about a separate space launch by a Minotaur IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force base in California. It was said to be carrying the prototype of a new weapon that can hit any target around the world in less than an hour and suggested some possible targets.
What was that all about?
Finding out about this ‘even more secret launch of new weapon’ required some detective work!
A separate article posted on foxnews.com on 4/23/10 had more information to offer. It had a similar title; namely, ‘Secret U.S. Spaceship Launch Masks Even More Secret Launch.’
Information in this article stated that according to the Associated Press, a rocket carrying an experimental hypersonic glider able to travel more than 4,000 miles in 30 minutes blasted off over the Pacific Ocean around the same time as the X-37B. It further stated that the Air Force statement regarding this launch did not reveal the result of the test involving the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2.
Now I had the name, Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, but no test result.
A youtube video from 2007
It was pretty dated material, but I found a video from 9/14/07 to be interesting. The labeling for the video stated: DARPA computer-animated video of Lockheed Martin Skunk Works’ Falcon HTV-3X hypersonic test vehicle. View this video by clicking here to get an idea of the Falcon test vehicle.
I was getting closer
Some further sleuthing led me to a darpa.mil website and some data on the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2).
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is a component of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. As interesting as this website is, I still did not learn any details about the 4/22/10 launching of the Falcon HTV-2.
My go-to source, wikipedia
I located a wikipedia article named: DARPA Falcon Project.
In the section entitled ‘Flight testing’ I found: ‘that DARPA intends to assemble two HTV-2s and conduct two flight tests in 2010 and 2011. DARPA will use the flights to demonstrate thermal protection systems and aerodynamic control features.
The first HTV-2 flight was launched by a Minotaur IV rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on April 22, 2010. The HTV-2 is a glider which will fly 4,800 miles (7,700 km) across the Pacific to Kwajalein at Mach 20. Although the launch was successful, this first mission appears to be a failure, contact having been lost with the vehicle nine minutes into the mission. A second flight is planned for early 2011.’
The source for that wikipedia information
Following the source code in that article, I finally located a very informative report which was published on spaceflightnow.com on 4/23/10. This article was entitled: ‘New Minotaur rocket launches on suborbital flight,’ and it is quite detailed regarding the 4/22/10 launch of the Falcon HTV-2 vehicle and its fate during the test flight.
This article also gives good information on DARPA’s plans for upcoming launches. Whether or not there will be a 2011 launch of a second flight of a Falcon HTV-2 seems unresolved since the 4/22/10 flight appears to have failed.
Yes, there were two ‘secret’ flights; the X-37B, which is in orbit, and the Falcon HTV-2 vehicle, which appears to have failed. Since there is considerable data available on websites regarding these aerospace technologies, perhaps the real secrets lie in the potential usages of what is being tested. Those secrets are likely to remain in the hands of the Department of the Defense.
For more articles by this writer, click here.
Of special interest: X-37B Launched with Mystery Mission.