The U.S. Defense Advance Research Projects Agency on Thursday launched the second of its hypersonic flight tests, and promptly lost contact with it. The test is part of a long-term project to create a craft that can travel across the globe in an hour.
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The unmanned craft, called the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2,) launched at around eight in the morning West Coast time from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The plan was to launch the vehicle on an Air Force Minotaur IV rocket and to guide it to the edge of space, before the plane separates and travels at the speed of 13,000 miles per hour (about 20 times the speed of sound) on its way back to Earth, where it'll fall into the ocean.
DARPA said in a statement that the goal of this mission is to fine-tune technical challenges in aerodynamics, aerothermal effects, navigation and control. Engineers adjusted the vehicle's center of gravity, changed some of the dynamics of the flight, and included a system to better control the flight flaps to try and maintain better stability during flight.