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DARPA wants full test of 'hypersonic X-plane' in four years

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When they're not testing gigapixel-class cameras or putting robots on treadmills, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is hard at work on a hypersonic glider with the ablity to travel over 13,000 miles per hour and carry out a military strike anywhere in the world in less than 60 minutes. 

DARPA, the DoD's research arm with the motto "Creating & Preventing Strategic Surprise," announced Friday that it will be seeking proposals next month to help solve tech hurdles in the hypersonic X-plane. The new phase of the program reflects the agency's goal of testing a full-scale hypersonic X-plane in four years. 

On August 14, researchers will host a so-called Proposers' Day, and address specifics about which technical areas are seeking proposals.

Experimental versions of the rocket-launched unmanned glider have already been tested. The craft, designed to fly at speeds 20 times the speed of sound (Mach 20), requires extraordinary controls and has to endure blast-furnace heat. 

The launch last August north of Santa Barbara ended with the glider's skin peeling away. The Falcon HTV-2 Flight 2 left out of Vandenberg Air Force Base aboard a rocket.

Lisa Brenner can be reached via Twitter @lisa_brenner

With contributions from AP

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