Written by Mohammed Al-Majed, CNN
The US military has successfully launched three hypersonic rockets with the aim of developing rocket technology with the ultimate goal of reducing air travel times by decades.
The three milestone launches happened on Friday and Saturday over the Pacific Ocean from the site of Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The launches mark a significant step forward in the development of hypersonic weapons as well as the strategic relationship between the Pentagon and privately-owned rocket company United Launch Alliance, which is capable of launching 100 rockets a day.
“This demonstration of ULA’s reusable rocket engine test bed will allow us to develop technologies needed to develop hypersonic vehicles and establish a pipeline for further achievement of national security hypersonic mission requirements,” ULA CEO Tory Bruno said in a statement.
At times reaching speeds of more than five times the speed of sound, hypersonic weapons are capable of delivering payloads to target locations many hundreds of miles away.
Currently hypersonic weapons must use carriers using the ballistic rocket system that were designed to carry nuclear weapons.
This type of missiles can travel great distances using batteries rather than fuel that has to be stored and transported.
A falling Russian hypersonic missile exploded in flames soon after it launched in 2014.
With speed in mind, the Vandenberg base, the world’s largest complex of launch facilities, is home to everything from capsule-based rocket launches to military tanker aircraft.
The facilities, built between 1976 and 1982, have powered early modern satellites such as Hubble space telescope and Spitzer Space Telescope.
The US military agency and the American defense industry has conducted other significant hypersonic maneuvers in recent years, including a test in 2012 that aimed to develop weapons capable of threatening Europe with warheads in six months.