“…it was going so fast its skin peeled off.”
- Wile E. Coyote’s latest attempt to catch the Roadrunner?
- PETA’s next animal-testing target?
- My oldest son behind the wheel of any working vehicle?
It turns out that tearing through the atmosphere at 20 times the speed of sound is bad for the skin, even if you’re a super high-tech aircraft developed by the government’s best engineers at its far-out research agency.
DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, has made public its best guess about what might have caused its unmanned arrowhead-shaped Hypersonic Technology Vehicle (HTV-2) to suddenly lose contact and crash in the Pacific just a few minutes after slicing through the sky at Mach 20 last August: it was going so fast its skin peeled off.
And they expected that – just not quite so much of it:
After an eight-month investigation, DARPA concluded that even though the HTV-2 was expected to lose some of its skin mid-flight, “larger than anticipated portions of the vehicle’s skin peeled from the aerostructure,” the agency said in a statement Friday.
The agency said it expected the HTV-2, which goes so fast it can make the commute from New York to Los Angeles in 12 minutes…
Twelve minutes! Is that on regular unleaded gas, do you figure? And does that include taking off and landing? How long does stopping take? I’m just wondering, y’know, in case this becomes a commuter option soon. For shorter distances. Say…Baraboo to Madison?
… to experience “impulsive shock waves” at such speeds…
Hell, I experience those every time I walk by the Lego section at Wal-Mart.
…but shocks it experienced last August were “more than 100 times what the vehicle was designed to withstand.”
This is, apparently, not the only such experiment going on:
Two months after DARPA’s test, the Army tested its own hypersonic aircraft – this one a long-range weapon system called the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) designed to strike any target in the world in just a couple hours.
That’s kinda scary. How do you launch countermeasures and/or a response?