DARPA Falcon Project

DARPA Falcon Project

DARPA Falcon Project

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The DARPA Falcon Project (Force Application and Launch from Continental United States) is a two-part joint project between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the United States Air Force (USAF). One part of the program aims to develop a reusable, rapid-strike Hypersonic Weapon System (HWS), now retitled the Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV), and the other is for the development of a launch system capable of accelerating a HCV to cruise speeds, as well as launching small satellites into earth orbit. This two-part program was announced in 2003 and continued into 2006.

The latest project to be announced under the Falcon banner was a fighter-sized unmanned aircraft called "Blackswift" which would take off from a runway and accelerate to Mach 6 before completing its mission and landing again. The memo of understanding between DARPA and the USAF on Blackswift — also known as the HTV-3X — was signed in September 2007. The Blackswift HTV-3X did not receive needed funding and was canceled in October 2008.

Current research under FALCON program is centered around X-41 Common Aero Vehicle (CAV), a common aerial platform for hypersonic ICBMs and cruise missiles, as well as civilian RLVs and ELV. The prototype Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) first flew on 22 April 2010; further tests are scheduled for 2011.

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