US military tests hypersonic flight at highest ever speed

Almost four hours of flight, one of which reached suborbital, is said to be record for longest hypersonic flight

Two US military suborbital rockets blasted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida late Thursday, one of which reached the edge of space, a first for hypersonic technologies, the Pentagon said.

One of the rockets launched an experimental launcher that launched a test satellite at nearly three times the speed of sound.

The test, called EELV (extended-range upper stage of launch vehicle) 1, reached an altitude of about 200 miles (320km) above the ground before the rocket fell back to Earth at the end of its trajectory.

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“The hypersonic EELV 1 upper stage conducted successful flight testing over 200 miles above the earth’s surface, and demonstrated the full range of capabilities of its EELV propulsion system and steerable electrical systems,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

“This flight test marks the longest hypersonic flight yet achieved by the Department of Defense.”

The second hypersonic rocket launched by a Space Launch System, the next-generation rocket designed to take astronauts into space, launched a small research satellite at the speeds of more than four times the speed of sound.

The experiment successfully deployed its payload at launch.

The test launched Thursday marks the first time the government has brought two completely different launches of different vehicles together under one program, the Pentagon said.

“This test demonstrates that Space Launch System can launch a suite of sensors, in this case a research satellite, in a reusable two-stage booster capable of multiple flights,” the Pentagon said.

The US military and NASA have joined together to develop hypersonic jets, similar to those shown above, for military and civilian use. They hope hypersonic jet travel could be cheaper, safer and faster than current air travel.

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