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Booster rocket failure foils Pentagon’s hypersonic weapon test

hypersonic weapon system

A booster rocket failure sidetracked a hypersonic weapon system test in Alaska on Thursday, the US Defense Department confirmed on the same day.

The attempted flight at the Pacific Spaceport Complex in Kodiak, Alaska, had been expected to test a hypersonic glide body. Officials are now determining why the booster, which is not part of the hypersonic program, failed.

The rocket made it off the launch pad before failing, A Defense News report quoted a defense official as saying.

“Experiments and tests both successful and unsuccessful are the backbone of developing highly complex critical technologies at tremendous speed, as the department is doing with hypersonic technologies,” Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Gorman said. “Delivering hypersonic weapons remains a top priority and the department remains confident that it is on track to field offensive hypersonic capabilities beginning in the early 2020s.”

The failed hypersonic test from Thursday appears to be unrelated to the Navy’s Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) and the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) programs. The two services had completed a flight campaign for their hypersonic systems just a day before the failed launch.

Another seemingly troublesome hypersonic program is the Air Force’s AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW) which failed for a second time during a test in July this year.

It should be noted that the US tests this week follow China’s test of an “orbital bombardment system” designed to overcome US defenses. The Financial Times was the first to report on the test, which apparently took place in August and stunned US officials. China denies it tested a hypersonic weapon, saying it was a spacecraft experiment.