Sunday, August 28, 2011

This is what hypersonic looks like

Or, The Failed Test of Today; the Cutting-Edge Technology of Tomorrow.

I spotted this on Ares Defense Blog: a video of the hypersonic technology demonstrator launched (and lost) by DARPA a few weeks ago. The HTV-2 was exploring new realms of high-speed aeronautics when it disappeared somewhere between its California launch site and intended South Pacific target.

It is designed to hit a football field-sized target anywhere on the globe within an hour, and cause catastrophic damage simply because of its mass and speed. The speed, of course, is really the crucial factor. It was traveling about Mach 20 when it passed over this observer:

This might be fascinating only to me. But I have often wondered what something going that
fast looks like from the ground. The answer, apparently, is "a lot like a high-altitude airplane." If you don't know how high it is, it looks like it is moving at a reasonable pace.

For comparison, here is what Mach 10 looks like up close (the speed this '60s-vintage anti-ballistic missile LINK hits after about one second):

As I mentioned before, I hope they continue working on this program. Pushing for new technology has benefits outside the weapons world, and if air transportation is going to advance beyond where subsonic airliners have taken it, more stuff like this has to happen. Even if all they get out of it is some data and a glittering failure caught on camera.

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