Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

DARPA: That’s Mach 20, Baby

In an onstage interview at the ninth D: All Things Digital conference in June, Regina Dugan — who is director of the federal government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — riveted the crowd by talking about a plane in development that can fly at a speed of Mach 20.

That would be 13,000 miles per hour, or 20 times the speed of sound.

Now DARPA is trotting out the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 for its second and final launch this morning at 7 am PT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

According to the DARPA site, the aircraft will be boosted into the atmosphere via a rocket, and will blast around for 30 minutes. (See the chart below for the info as to how it does so.)

On its first outing, the plane already proved it can maintain Global Positioning System (GPS) signals while traveling 3.6 miles per second. But DARPA also lost contact with the vehicle, which had a controlled landing in the ocean.

The goal of the second flight, said DARPA, “is to validate current assumptions and increase technical understanding of the hypersonic flight regime. More than 20 test assets will collect continuous flight data to achieve this goal.”


Here’s a video of the full interview at D9, with DARPA director Dugan talking about the Mach 20 flight and more:

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The best and brightest are usually put to work on optimisation. … They will then go forward and solve the inefficiencies, and that’s where 99% of most energy is spent on. But, at some point you run out of room to improve things, and that’s when you have to step aside and ask, can we make it different?

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