Minotaur IV carrying the HTV-2
Last Thursday the US Air Force carried out another classified launch. And once again, over-sensitive journalists claimed the AF had launched a weapon into space. And once again, they were wrong!
If they had managed to look carefully at the AF briefing, they would have noticed that the HTV-2 is not a weapon itself, but rather is a delivery vehicle for a possible weapon. This test carried the test equipment from the Vandenburg AF base in southern California over 4,000 miles to the central Pacific ocean. The Air Force has not announced if the test was successful or not.
HTV-2 is a payload carrying craft that can glide hypersonically up to Mach 20 in a sub-orbital pattern- not really in space at all, just the upper reaches (or more like the edge of space) of the atmosphere. It may be capable of carrying a non-nuclear warhead to counterstrike an enemy or more likely, first strike a potential threat as it launches. Who knows.
While the HTV technology is amazing (and I am searching for illustrations) I am also impressed by the Minotaur IV. This rocket is adapted from the Peacemaker ballistic missile technology by Orbital Sciences, a civilian company which is rapidly developing a lot of success at launching small objects into space.