US Air Force Releases HTV Demonstrator Roadmap

Released on Friday, January 27, 2006
United States of America
AFRL - Air Force Research Laboratory
HTV - Hypersonic Technology Vehicle
NASA - National Aeronautics & Space Administration
For an aircraft to achieve hypersonic speeds, ranging from 6,000 to 15,000 mph (Mach 9 to Mach 22), and reach altitudes between 100,000 to 150,000 feet (30,000 - 45,000 meters), it needs an airframe structure designed to survive intense heat and pressure. Such technology is in development by scientists and engineers with the Falcon hypersonic technology vehicle, or HTV, program.

Started in 2003, the joint Air Force and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency endeavor consists of two objectives: to develop hypersonic technology for a glided or powered system and advance small, low-cost and responsive launch vehicles.

Other partners participating in the program include NASA, the Space and Missile Systems Center, Sandia National Laboratories and the Air Force Research Laboratory's air vehicles and space vehicles directorates.

Both AFRL organizations have been working on the project's hypersonic technology vehicle portion here, specifically focusing on technologies for the glided system.

Planned for a less than one-hour flight in September 2007, the Falcon HTV-1 is set to complete its inaugural voyage over the Pacific Ocean. Attaining Mach 19, the vehicle will briefly exit the Earth's atmosphere and re-enter flying between 19 and 28 miles above the planet's surface. Demonstrating hypersonic glide technology and setting the stage for HTV-2 represent the primary focus of the lower risk, lower performance initial flight.

For the second demonstration, scheduled for 2008 or 2009, the Falcon HTV-2 will feature a different structural design, enhanced controllability and higher risk performance factors during its high-speed journey. Like its predecessor, the system will reach Mach 22 and then finish its one-hour plus mission over the Pacific Ocean.

On the other hand, the third and final Falcon HTV, slated for 2009, will be a departure from the previous demonstrations. The reusable hypersonic glider will lift off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Virginia, and then more than an hour later, be recovered in the Atlantic Ocean.

In addition, the HTV-3, flying at Mach 10, will be designed to achieve high aerodynamic efficiency and to validate external heat barrier panels that will be reusable.

Currently, program staff at the space vehicles directorate are helping develop a thermal protection system for the HTV structure to withstand 3,000-degree temperatures and incredible exterior pressures, 25 times more than those experienced by the space shuttle. An important component of this critical technology, the all-carbon aeroshell, must keep from being crushed or burned up in this environment. To keep the vehicle interior cool, an advanced multilayer insulation is being created for long flights. Researchers are also designing tools to enhance HTV navigation and maneuverability for robust aerodynamic performance.

With its initial flight vehicle project progressing rapidly, the Falcon HTV program is poised to meet the challenges of achieving unprecedented hypersonic technology validation in flight and demonstrating operationally responsive space lift. The results of these three experimental flights will have a significant impact in the development of future military delivery platforms and launch systems.


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