Thursday, August 11, 2011

Space Time Continuum Breached

DARPA (the United States' contingent of mad scientists) has been working on an incredible project called the FALCON / HTV-2. HTV-2 stands for hypersonic technology vehicle. Hyper (meaning really damn fast) and sonic (meaning sound) is an understatement in this case.

The FALCON has previously reached speeds around Mach 20 (twenty times the speed of sound; i.e. 13,000 miles-per-flipping-hour). However, the arrowhead is actually capable of going faster and has done so on one occasion. The "data truck" is designed to more or less drink air. The faster it goes, the more air it swallows, the more power it produces and the whole thing speeds up (the exact details on its propulsion system are unknown). However, it appears to be some form of a ramjet which are known to push a craft upward of MACH 8. How it goes faster after that is anyone's guess but probably has something to do with utilizing hydrogen to redirect external heat into the engines combustion chambers.

Soo, in short, its top speed is really difficult to calculate. During the maiden voyage of the first HTV/FALCON, DARPA estimated it reached speeds of MACH 22. Crazy right? Here's another crazy fact: At MACH 20, the craft could travel from New York to L.A. in twelve (12) minutes. At that speed, the heat generated is somewhere between 1500 and 3000 degrees which is above the melting point of steel. That means this thing is probably carbon/alloy construction. There are also likely good sized seams built into the craft. At very high speeds, there's a lot friction and a shockwave forms around the airframe. That generates heat which actually causes changes to the physical properties of the materials used to construct the FALCON.

The heat causes alloys to expand and without the seams, the body would destroy itself as it grew. Supersonic birds from the past have been known to leak fuel (like on the runway) because these seams are present until the aircraft reaches heated operating temperatures. At higher speeds, the materials both harden and expand. However, at lower temperatures they soften and shrink. The seams are built into the design to allow for the physical changes in the materials. The guys that flew prior manned versions of these things had stones the size of Mars. (One of the most riveting stories I have ever read was about one such flight.)

Anyways, back to our story. So you know this thing is stupid fast. How do we keep track of it? Well, we don't. The maiden voyage of the first FALCON ended abruptly last year when the HTV pulled itself apart (according to DARPA). Afterward, we went back to the drawing board and reconfigured a few things so the aircraft could reach its top speed and not "lose telemetry."

Well, today, during the second flight of the HTV-2, we "lost telemetry." Again. In common parlance, that means the thing blew up. DARPA used this language, specifically, to make it seem as if we actually "lost" the vehicle after utilizing an emergency autonomous flight termination program. However, that's a crock of carbon rich anaerobic product (CRAP). Personally, I think we've really sent two aircraft/projectiles through the space-time continuum and created a blackhole/wormhole/OMG Apocalypse Thing. Mark my words, someone (or some thing) just went back into time this morning and your future is being altered as we speak. I hope mine involves winning the lotto now... and retiring to the ocean on a huge yacht with a small remote island filled with arable land and really hot native chicks.

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