This post isn't so much about Blackswift. This AviationWeek article will give all you need to know about the DARPA/US Air Force hypersonic (Mach 6+) spaceplane project. This post is mostly about gawking at the pictures.


No, that's not Black Swift above. In 1986, Ronald Reagan announced plans for a "a new Orient Express that could take off from Dulles Airport and accelerate up to twenty-five times the speed of sound, attaining low earth orbit or flying to Tokyo within two hours." Known as FALCON (Force Application and Launch from CONtinental United States), the program got underway in 2003. Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works won the resulting competition with its plans for HTV-3X, or Blackswift (below).


Here's a 30-second (simulation) video demonstration that includes cool action music.

In 2009, following a checkered but instructive flight testing career, Blackswift was canceled for fiscal reasons—or so DARPA says. Blackswift's place has been taken by the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2  (HTV-2, below), an unmanned rocket glider capable of 13,000 miles per hour. It flew in 2010 and 2011, both times failing and winding up in the Pacific. Tests will continue this summer.