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This Rocket Could Change Travel—and War

US, Australia successfully test 'hypersonic' speeds
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 20, 2016 12:26 PM CDT

(Newser) – A rocket went up over the Australian desert on May 18, but this successful test launch was no ordinary feat: The experimental rocket hit a speed of Mach 7.5—or 7.5 times the speed of sound—qualifying it for "hypersonic" status, reports Gizmodo. Military scientists from the US and Australia teamed up on the project, called Hypersonic International Flight Research Experimentation, or HiFire. The goal, reports techradar, is to design an engine that flies at Mach 7, and Wednesday's test is one in a series that will run through 2018. "It is a game-changing technology ... and could revolutionize global air travel, providing cost-effective access to space," says chief Australian scientist Alex Zelinsky, per AFP.

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To put the feat in more concrete terms, the scientists say such an engine could make a trip from Sydney to London possible in a mind-boggling two hours. (Today's travelers can figure on closer to 24 hours, factoring in connecting flights.) In fact, it would make any trip in the world much more manageable and make it far easier to put satellites in space. But Popular Science also takes note of the military applications: "With that much speed, it would be impossible for an enemy [to have enough time] to move anything on the ground after radar detected [a] plane, letting it either capture pictures immediately or drop bombs almost unimpeded." The next test, in which the engine would separate from the booster rocket, is scheduled for 2017. (Also in the works: reusable rockets.)

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