The DARPA Falcon Project
pplication and L
aunch from Con
tinental 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
. The prototype Hypersonic Technology Vehicle-2 (HTV-2) first flew on 22 April 2010; further tests are scheduled for 2011.