Tech

US Army’s Hypersonic Space Weapon Self-Destructs Seconds After Launch

The U.S. Army was forced to self-destruct an advanced space weapon following its launch Monday after engineers encountered a flight problem.

Developed inside the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon — the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) — was embarking on a test flight from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska when the launch was aborted and the vehicle destroyed.

“Shortly after 4 a.m. EDT, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, as part of the Defense Department’s Conventional Prompt Global Strike technology development program, conducted a flight test of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska,” DOD spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said in a Mashable report.

Officials are still working to determine the cause of the problem. No one was harmed, and debris fell within the grounds of the spaceport some 44 miles south of Kodiak, on the island of the same name off the southern coast of Alaska.

“Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety,” Schumann said. “There were no injuries to any personnel.”

The Falcon, built by Lockheed subsidiary Sandia National Laboratories and the Army, has been undergoing testing for five years as part of the Pentagon’s “Conventional Prompt Global Strike” program, which aims to execute attacks on targets anywhere in the world within one hour.

“Falcon HTV-2 is an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable aircraft that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds — Mach 20 (approximately 13,000 miles per hour),” the vehicle description on Lockheed’s website reads. “At HTV-2 speeds, flight time between New York City and Los Angeles would be less than 12 minutes. The HTV-2 vehicle is a ‘data truck’ with numerous sensors that collect data in an uncertain operating envelope.”

“Air doesn’t travel around you — You rip it apart,” DARPA’s website says of the Falcon, which the agency plans to christen the fastest aircraft ever built — assuming it can overcome the development hurdles of maintaining control, navigation, and vehicle integrity at the required high-speed and temperature.

Follow Giuseppe on Twitter and Facebook