Pentagon to test 2nd near-space strike craft

November 28, 2010

By Shaun Waterman-The Washington Times

Defense Department scientists are set to conduct a second test launch next year of the Falcon HTV-2 experimental superweapon after the first flight this year ended when the autopilot deliberately crashed the unmanned glider into the ocean as a safety measure.

The Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle is designed to skim the top of the atmosphere just below space, and is a key element of the Pentagon‘s Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) capability — a program to build non-nuclear strategic weapons that can strike conventionally anywhere in the world in less than an hour.

In a statement last week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed for the first time that the first test flight April 20 ended when the autonomous onboard control system — the computer autopilot flying the futuristic superweapon — “commanded flight termination.”

“When the onboard system detects [undesirable or unsafe flight] behavior, it forces itself into a controlled roll and pitchover to descend directly into the ocean,” DARPA spokesman Eric Mazzacone explained in e-mail to The Washington Times.

The DARPA statement said that an independent engineering review board found that the flight was terminated after the plane began to roll so violently that it “exceeded the available control capability” of the onboard autonomous piloting system.

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