The China Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics (CAAA), based in Beijing, China, and part of the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, claims to have successfully tested its first hypersonic aircraft, the “Starry Sky-2.” China claims that Starry Sky-2 is unstoppable as it can travel six times the speed of sound by riding its own shock waves.
The experimental aircraft was first carried airborne by a solid-propellant rocket before being separated, making a few turns, and coming back down to earth at speeds reaching nearly 4,563 mph.
In response to the CAAA’s “successful” tests, photos of the test launch were posted on the Chinese social media platform, WeChat. However, the CAAA did not indicate what the new aircraft or hypersonic technology would be used for, other than to further contribute to China’s aerospace industry.
Hypersonic vehicles are more than just high-speed means of transport — they travel nearly five times the speed of sound. To put this into perspective, that’s fast enough to cross the West Coast of the U.S. to the East Coast in nearly 30 minutes.
For years, militaries around the world have been trying to develop hypersonic weapons. In 2015, the U.S. Air Force announced their goal to develop a hypersonic weapon by 2023, and just this year, Russia claimed to have successfully tested its hypersonic missiles.
While many countries have been racing to develop weapons, it’s important to remember that hypersonic weapons can be used for more harmless means as well. Boeing, the world’s largest aircraft manufacturer, is working on a hypersonic passenger plane that could travel from New York to London in 120 minutes.
Despite China’s claim to success being a big step forward for aerospace technology, it could intensify pressure on the U.S. military. The U.S.’s existing missile defense systems have been highly criticized for being expensive and having an inconsistent track record.
China and the U.S., along with Russia, are the main contenders in the hypersonic arena, and have long been engaged in a new arms race based on technology so to speak.
By: Maytinee Kramer