Booster rocket failure stops U.S. hypersonic weapon test
A launch vehicle with a hypersonic slider failed to launch Thursday morning during a test of the Department of Defense's hypersonic weapons program.
"The test did not go as planned due to a failure of the booster stack," Defense Department spokesman Lieutenant Commander Tim Gorman told CBS News in a statement about the attempted test, which took place in Alaska. Gorman emphasized that the bug is not related to the hypersonic technology, just the booster.
"The booster stack used in the test was not part of the Hypersonic program and has nothing to do with the Common Hypersonic Glide Body. The rocket booster is used for test purposes only."
The test took place at the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak and was conducted to inform the development of hypersonic technology. Despite the setback, the department is still well on its way to deploying hypersonic offensive capabilities in the early 2020s, according to Gorman.
A precise sounding rocket. / Photo credit: Courtesy of the US Navy
Hypersonic weapons can move in the upper atmosphere at five times the speed of sound.
The failed test comes after the Navy and Army successfully tested precision research missiles on Wednesday. The missiles take measurements that aid in US hypersonic development.
"During the development of weapon systems, precision research missiles fill a critical gap between ground tests and flight tests of the entire system," the Navy said in a statement. The statement went on to say that launches like this one would help accelerate the development of offensive and defensive hypersonic technology.
The US tests come amid reports that China has tested hypersonic weapons.
The Financial Times reported that China conducted a test of a hypersonic nuclear missile in August. The hypersonic glider was approaching its target through a low orbit, missing it by only about 24 miles. The Daily Mail also reported that China conducted another test in July.
On Wednesday, President Biden said he was concerned about the reported Chinese tests.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was also questioned this week about China's alleged tests and declined to comment, but told reporters traveling with him to Tbilisi, Georgia that the US is closely monitoring the development of China's military capabilities.
"You've heard me say China is a challenge and that is what we will continue to focus on," said Austin.
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