The successful launch from a remote rocket range near Woomera, in South Australia, helped staunch fears that China and Russia were racing ahead in a new hypersonic arms race, and concerns over increasingly hostile missile tests by North Korea.
The incredible speed would theoretically take a hypersonic glider from London to Australia in a little over one hour. Although, the US has said the missiles will only carry conventional warheads, there are already fears other nations could use them to increase nuclear capabilities.
The hypersonic glider is capable of travelling at Mach 8 – eight times faster than the speed of sound, from between 3,836mph (6,200km h)to almost 8,000mph (13,000kmh). The test was part of a project called the Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation Program (HIFiRE) involving the US and Australian militaries, Queensland University, Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Group and private companies, including Boeing and BAE Systems.
The date of the test earlier this month has not been released, however, a video of the launch was posted online a few days ago by the Faculty of Engineering, Architecture & Information Technology of the University of Queensland, which is a partner in HIFiRE. Just weeks ago, in May, members of US Congress raised concerns that the US was trailing behind Russia and China in the development of hypersonic weapons capabilities.