New-York to Los Angeles in 12 minutes… It would have been a record-breaker, had it worked:

The DARPA and USAF FALCON project might give anybody the thrill of speed as this « aerospacecraft » has been designed to reach Mach 20 i.e. around 20,000 km/h; 5.6 km/s; 10,800 knots; or 12,400 mph depending on the air temperature, and the altitude which might be above at least FL900!

DARPA USAF FALCON HTV-2 hypersonic aerospacecraft - 22 April 2011
DARPA HTV-2 - 22 April 2011 ---- Photo: DARPA, US Federal Government

Unfortunately, the project seems to encounter major difficulties as the last test which unfolded on August 11, 2011 failed again. The previous one – also on an HTV2 – had failed in April. Click on the right-hand side picture to get further information on the first test. The Blackswift (HTV-3X)  had been designed by ATK; Boeing; Lockheed Martin; and Skunk Works to provided a strategic strike anywhere in the world within an hour. It was cancelled due to a lack of funds (see the HTV-3 shown in the following video):



  • DARPA stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • FALCON stands for Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States
  • FL stands for Flight Level (FL x 100ft = altitude)
  • HTV stands for Hypersonic Test Vehicle or Hypersonic Technology Vehicle
  • RCS means here in the videos: Reaction Control System (and not Radar Cross Section)

Click on the picture below, and then on the blue arrows to watch the different phases of light:

Flight Overview slide, MACH-20 DARPA AEROSPACECRAFT
Flight Overview slide - Interactive picture: DARPA, U.S. Federal Government


X-51A WaveRider speed duration record at around Mach 5 – May 26, 2010

The X-51A WaveRider maintained its speed for more than 3 minutes. The X-43A reached the speed of Mach 9.8 in 2004. However, that top speed lasted for only 10 seconds.

« The X-51 launched at about 10 a.m. from here, carried under the left wing of an Air Force Flight Test Center B-52 Stratofortress. Then, flying at 50,000 feet over the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center Sea Range, it was released. Four seconds later an Army Tactical Missile solid rocket booster accelerated the X-51 to about Mach 4.8 mach before it and a connecting interstage were jettisoned. The launch and separation were normal », Mr. Brink said. ( courtesy)


Boeing X-51A Waverider at Mach 6