Future space marines might commemorate yesterday as a historic moment, based on the coinciding launches of DARPA's hypersonic glider and an Air Force space plane. Both test vehicles could pave the way for new warfighter transports or weapons systems, the Ares Defense Blog reports.
DARPA's HTV-2 was first into the air, around 7 pm EDT. The hypersonic vehicle is designed to glide through the Earth's atmosphere at speeds 20 times greater than the speed of sound. The Santa Maria Times notes that several maneuvers were scheduled to test how HTV-2 handles during the hypersonic glide stage, before hurtling into the Pacific Ocean at more than 13,000 mph for a planned demise.
A future hypersonic platform could theoretically deliver precision strikes to targets around the world with "little or no advanced warning," as DARPA puts it. A second test is planned for 2011, based on the success of yesterday's sortie.
Barely an hour after the HTV-2 debut, the U.S. Air Force launched its X-37B space plane. That much-anticipated mission lofted the space plane -- powered by gallium arsenide solar cells with lithium-ion batteries -- into orbit for possibly as long as 270 days, according to the Ares Defense Blog.
Like DARPA, the Air Force has remained relatively tight-lipped about the exact purpose of such a space plane. But it's not hard to imagine what hypersonic weapons or a space plane might do for the future of U.S. military operations, as far as speed of deployment is concerned.
Unless they massively scale up the system, I can't see this being used purely for moving people/sensitive equipment. As it can stay in space for a relatively long period of time before needing to land, I am going to go out a limb here and say that it will be a weapons platform for Rods From God. The other system wouldn't work because it might accidentally start a nuclear war, but this one is pretty solid.
Perhaps the next best scary weapon you'll get besides Kinetic rods from space or a nuke
a commuter plane that will travel from sydney to new york in less than 30 minutes.
@sammyson9 Prepare to drop
When asked as to the purpose of this space plane, answers regarding potential experiments include nothing more than a test of the vehicle itself. In other words, what is the purpose of this flight? To test the vehicle. That is what the vehicle is currently for. Testing itself.
Um.... then what?
If this is related to the scramjet engines then we still have another part which wasnt solved.
Even if the hopping is successful, and flying from sydney to new york takes less than 30 minutes, how will it fly up to the required atmospheric level?
That glider needed a USAF space plane to drop it before it even started its engines. How will it get up there to the required height? Ares rockets?
That would be incredible