The US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has launched its new Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle 2 (HTV-2) at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The objective of DARPA Falcon HTV-2 programme is to build and test an unmanned, rocket-launched, manoeuvrable, hypersonic air vehicle that can glide through the Earth’s atmosphere to provide a incredibly quick response to threats by flying at speeds of up to Mach 20.

Flying at such speeds the Lockheed Martin-built vehicle can cover around 4,100nm in less than 30 minutes.

According to the preliminary review of technical data, the Minotaur Lite launch system successfully deployed the Falcon HTV-2 glide vehicle to the desired separation conditions.

The flight test was conducted to validate the hypersonic flight characteristics of the HTV-2 as well as the technologies crucial to flight at hypersonic speeds.

The HTV-2 incorporates advanced lightweight but tough thermal protection structures, materials and fabrication technologies, autonomous hypersonic navigation guidance and control systems, and an autonomous flight safety system.