It seems inconceivable that an aircraft that can travel from New York to Los Angeles in 12 minutes — less time than it takes to wake up, whip together a proper breakfast and soak in the world news exists. But it does and DARPA's planning to test the unmanned Falcon HTV-2 aircraft today!
This article has been updated with new information. The original post follows, and you can see our update below.
Provided the weather in California doesn't screw up the launch, at around 10 a.m. EST, the Air Force Minotaur IV rocket will carry the Falcon HTV-2 into sub-orbital space. The Falcon HTV-2 will then glide back down at Mach 22 speeds of 13,000 miles per hour — 20 times the speed of sound.
After a failed test launch in April 2010 that only lasted nine minutes, DARPA's hoping its $308 million dollar aircraft will lead to the development of "a new generation of hypersonic weapons that can strike faster than missiles." The ultimate goal is of course to be able to bomb the living crap out of any region in the world within one hour.
That's probably the fanciest triangular aircraft you'll ever see. A planned launch yesterday was scrubbed and DARPA's hoping a repeat of last year's crash into the ocean won't happen, but should the launch go awry, DARPA's not going to spend another few hundred million to built a new Falcon HTV.
DARPA isn't releasing a live video feed of the Falcon HTV-2 test, which is a shame for us nerdier kind, but you'll still be able to keep up with the latest happenings via DARPA's Twitter — where officials will be live tweeting the event.
UPDATE: It doesn't look good. DARPA says it's lost contact with the Falcon HTV-2:
Range assets have lost telemetry with #HTV2. More to follow
The last tweet from DARPA as of 2:07 p.m. EST was:
Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry. #HTV2 has an autonomous flight termination capability. More to follow.
Sad faces indeed.