The U.S. Air Force has successfully launched three hypersonic rockets for classified purposes, according to a report.
The reports, published Wednesday by Defense News and Defense Industry Daily, said the rocket launches involved the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, or EELV program, which provides launch services for the space shuttle and Russian and French satellites, among others.
The Defense Department said in a statement that the latest launches took place June 5 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Defense News reported the rockets—all in three stages and each using United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket—flew at hypersonic speeds.
Karen Horrigan, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, confirmed to Military.com that the three types of test were conducted.
However, both Defense News and DT reported the Air Force plans to cease hypersonic launches in the future.
“While this program never separated from the EELV launch program, the services decided it was appropriate to allow more time and resources to the F-35 program,” Horrigan said. “While the hypersonic vehicle was developed as a potential cost-effective option to address the concerns with longer flight times associated with F-35s, we are also taking steps to pursue space-based propulsion for commercial and military satellite applications.”
What does this mean for hypersonic weapons?
Testing the hypersonic rockets last month confirmed that the U.S. military can successfully launch rockets that travel at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, according to the report. It also described the development of hypersonic weapons as an incredibly expensive endeavor.
For instance, Defense News reported the rocket flight cost between $9 million and $11 million per launch. DT reported the rocket’s launch cost about $50 million, adding to the total costs of $310 million to $500 million for one rocket.