DARPA hypersonic bombers fly high above southern US

By Josh Lederman

In a historic test, three US government-funded rockets launched at spaceport in southern Louisiana in a joint demonstration of hypersonic systems, catapulting them to an altitude of around 11km.

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According to an official release, the aircraft ‘Hawkeye’ test aircraft was flown by United Launch Alliance (ULA) and the cryogenic Hypersonic International Ballistic Missile (HIBM) test vehicle built by Boeing was flown by the US Missile Defense Agency.

The milestones mark a technological breakthrough in hypersonic technology, which can travel more than five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) for short periods of time and can potentially deliver a significant payload as far away as the moon. The new technology is being developed by numerous government agencies and private companies and is being built to win a space race to develop a world-class military space system.

The US government partners up with private industry to fund hypersonic development as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) strategic projects office (SPO). The HIBM and Hawkeye flight were funded by DARPA.

While this is the highest altitude taken up by a US hypersonic weapon, the HIBM completed a similar three-stage, hypersonic test on 30 March.

Over the weekend, a DARPA-funded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launched the Boeing SROLair hypersonic glider, which then launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The SROLair took on a trajectory that will be used in future launches before being collected and dissected for analysis.

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