New hypersonic vehicle could be Aurora

An artist's rendering of the Falcon vehicle, which is expected to be capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload.

The Washington Post has done a great investigative-reporting job on how the Pentagon wants funding for a next generation “hypersonic cruise vehicle.” 

They found the $100 million appropriation tucked in the 621-page, House-Senate conference report on the fiscal 2008 defense appropriations bill.

A new program, dubbed Falcon, centers on a small-launch-vehicle concept of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The agency describes Falcon as a “a reusable Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle (HCV) capable of delivering 12,000 pounds of payload at a distance of 9,000 nautical miles from [the continental United States] in less than two hours.”

The vehicle would be launched into space on a rocket, fly on its own to a target, deliver its payload and return to Earth. 

Many of us are left wondering, though.  Has the Aurora Project morphed into Falcon?

A mysterious triangle-shaped vehicle has been seen and heard in the western U.S. since the ’90s, and many have speculated that Aurora is a hypersonic vehicle being tested out of Groom Lake.  The vehicle, with concept photo at right, was even mentioned in a 1985 Pentagon budget.

If Aurora is Falcon, then we may actually get a legitimate look at the plane fairly soon. 

Also, no word yet if Elon Musk will sue the Pentagon for copyright infringement.

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