|X-41 Common Aero Vehicle|
|Role||Experimental maneuvering re-entry vehicle|
|National origin||United States|
|Status||Experimental research program|
X-41 is the designation, initiated in 2003, for a still-classified U.S. military spaceplane. The X-41 is now part of the FALCON (Force Application and Launch from Continental United States) program sponsored by DARPA and NASA.
Specifications or photos of the X-41 program have not been released to the public; thus little is known about its goals. It has been described as an experimental maneuvering reentry vehicle capable of transporting a 1,000-pound payload on a sub-orbital trajectory at hypersonic speeds and releasing that payload into the atmosphere. The word "Aero" in "Common Aero Vehicle" stood for "aeroshell", not "aerospace", because the CAV was a common aerothermodynamic shell for varying and multiple payloads. The technology necessary for the X-41 is not known and reportedly has yet to be developed. However, it is believed to be a new form of hypersonic propulsion capable of exceeding Mach 7, perhaps reaching Mach 9 (11,025 km/h; 6,851 mph).