U.S. Hypersonic Weapon Test Ends in Failure

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WASHINGTON — The test of a hypersonic weapon being developed by the U.S. Department of Defense ended in failure Aug. 25 when its booster rocket was intentionally destroyed shortly after liftoff from Kodiak Island, Alaska, the Pentagon announced.

The early morning test of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon was terminated for safety reasons when an anomaly was detected near the launch pad at the state-run Kodiak Launch Complex, the Defense Department said in a press release. There were no injuries and the cause of the mishap is under investigation, the release said.

It was the second test of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, a program managed by U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command to develop a conventional deep-strike munition that travels through the atmosphere on a nonballistic trajectory. In its first flight, the vehicle lifted off from Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii and flew a nonballistic, glide trajectory at hypersonic speeds toward the Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll — some 4,000 kilometers away — where it arrived about 30 minutes later.

The test system features a hypersonic-glide vehicle carried aloft by a three-stage booster rocket, both built by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratory. After being released from the booster at a high altitude, the heavily instrumented test vehicle dives toward Earth at a steep angle before pulling upward to follow a near-horizontal trajectory toward its target, according to information published on the Sandia website. 

The test program is designed to demonstrate advanced systems for aerodynamic control, thermal protection, and guidance, navigation and control, according to an Army-produced presentation.