The US military has just launched 3 rockets from a NASA center to stimulate research on hypersonic weapons

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A trio of silent rocket launches from a NASA space center in Virginia this week tested advanced hypersonic weapon technology for the U.S. military, Navy officials revealed on Friday (October 22).

Weapons tests were performed on three small sounding rocket launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia. The space center announced the launches in advance, but didn’t share much about their nature, other than the fact that they were destined for the US Department of Defense.

On Friday, NASA and the US Navy revealed that the launches were part of the High Operational Tempo for Hypersonics test program to assess new technologies for hypersonic weapons that can travel faster than five times the speed of sound.

Related: The most dangerous space weapons of all time

“The test will be used to inform the development of the Navy’s conventional rapid strike and offensive hypersonic strike capability of the military’s long-range hypersonic weapon,” NASA officials wrote in a statement Friday. .

The Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike program aims to develop a system that would allow it to deploy a non-nuclear hypersonic missile that “will enable precise and timely strike capability in contested environments,” according to a project summary. It consists of a “hypersonic glide body that moves toward the target at hypersonic speed and a booster that launches the glide body into initial flight,” the summary reads.

The U.S. Army’s Long-Range Hypersonic Weapons Program aims to develop a hypersonic projectile launched by a propellant at speeds up to 17 times the speed of sound to hit targets at least 1,725 ​​miles (2,776 kilometers), according to Popular Mechanics, who quoted an army spokesperson. It is designed to be launched from transporter / assembler / launch trucks that can carry two missiles each, Popular Mechanics reported.

Sandia National Laboratories performed the triple launch hypersonic tests for the Navy and the Army.

“This test demonstrated advanced hypersonic technologies, capabilities and prototype systems in a realistic operating environment,” the Navy wrote in its own statement, adding that the tests bridged a gap between ground tests and demonstrations of complete system. “These launches provide frequent and regular flight test opportunities to support the rapid maturation of offensive and defensive hypersonic technologies.”

Hypersonic weapons are widely regarded as the next step in weapon technology due to their breathtaking speed, which allows them greater range and maneuverability, making them more difficult to track and intercept than ballistic missiles. intercontinental.

The U.S. military has conducted several hypersonic weapon test launches in recent years to deal with potential threats from other hypersonic programs being developed by China and Russia. In addition to the Navy and Army programs, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing a hypersonic interception vehicle called the “Glide Breaker” with contractor Aerojet Rocketdyne.

In August, China reportedly successfully launched a hypersonic weapons test using a Long March rocket as a propellant, according to the Financial Times, although China’s Foreign Ministry denied it was a test of ‘weapons, stating through a spokesperson that this was a reusable spacecraft test. .

Last month, North Korea claimed to have tested its own hypersonic missile, called the Hwasong-8, but outside experts have expressed skepticism that the vehicle is fast enough to reach hypersonic speeds.

Email Tariq Malik at [email protected] or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us on Twitter at @Spacedotcom, to Facebook and Instagram.


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