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Two key tests which could have ramifications for U.S. military space and hypersonics for decades to come took place within an hour of one another this evening. First off the mark, at around 7pm EDT, was Darpa’s HTV-2 – a Lockheed Martin-built hypersonic test vehicle aimed at proving technology for long-endurance, maneuvering hypersonic flight. The small, sharp-delta shaped vehicle was pushed to speeds in excess of Mach 20 by a Minotaur IV Lite rocket launched from Vandenberg AFB, California.Did HTV-2 perform as expected? We may find out soon. (Darpa)Less than one hour later, at 7:52pm EDT, the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was launched from Cape Canaveral AFB, Florida on top of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V. The U.S. Air Force OTV is designed to serve as an ‘on-orbit’ testbed for spacecraft technologies as well as pioneer re-usable space operations. The 29-ft long OTV was launched by the 45th Space Wing into an orbital mission that will end after an unspecified period of days or weeks with an autonomous landing at Vandenberg AFB. The X-37B is powered by gallium arsenide solar cells with lithium-ion batteries and potentially could stay in orbit for up to 270 days.OTV - ready for sealing up inside the Atlas V fairing (USAF)After years of planning, and a series of recent weather delays, it was by complete chance that both tests took place so close together. At this point we know that both vehicles launched successfully, and separated from their respective boosters. The rest of the story remains to be told, but is expected to unfold (in the case of the HTV-2 at least), in more detail on Friday.
ar99, OTV, HTV, Vandenberg, USAF, Darpa
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