Video: HTV-2 in Mach-20 Flight, Just Minutes Before Autonomously Aborting its Mission

You can't imagine the shutter speed our photographer had to use to capture this shot (kidding). DARPA

Back on August 11th DARPA launched, then lost, its Falcon hypersonic vehicle, also known as HTV-2. Today we found it. Not the actual glider, but a video of it streaking through the sky over the Pacific Ocean as captured by a crew member aboard a tracking ship. And as you can see in this video, it is indeed moving fast.

For those out of the loop on this, HTV-2 is an unmanned hypersonic glider meant to test the boundaries of hypersonic flight. HTV-2 was traveling at Mach 20–that’s 20 times the speed of sound–when an as-yet unexplained flight anomaly caused the vehicle’s automated systems to kick in and put the thing into a controlled dive into the Pacific. By the time that happened, three minutes into HTV-2’s independent flight, it was somewhere well on its way to Hawaii. It started at Vandenberg AFB in California.

In the video above, you can see a white contrail entering the left of the frame. That’s not just the HTV-2, but the third stage of the Minotaur 4 rocket that carried HTV-2 to the edge of space. From there, if you look very closely you can see HTV-2 separate from the rocket stage (it’s a really faint dot) and begin its aerodynamically stable hypersonic flight, in which it hits its objective speed of Mach 20.

Can’t see it? Try the video below.

Saw it that time, didn’t you?