The Falcon is a suborbital vehicle launched on a solid-fuel rocket booster made from a decommissioned ballistic missile. Just outside the atmosphere, the plane separates from the rocket and glides back to Earth at more than 13,000 mph - more than 20 times the speed of sound, reports The Washington Times. For this maiden lift-off, the rocket was in a "lite" configuration consisting of only the first three stages and no fourth stage due to mission requirements [UPDATE].
DARPA's $308 million research program is building two Falcon vehicles, the second of which is scheduled for launch early next year. Defense analysts say the Falcon is part of the Pentagon's effort to develop the capability to strike anywhere in the world with a conventional warhead in less than an hour - known as Conventional Prompt Global Strike, or CPGS. [Scenario Animation Video]