NASA launches hypersonic rocket tests that show how reusable booster rockets work

In a once-in-a-generation event, the first three flight tests of next-generation hypersonic technology — a new vehicle and accompanying re-entry vehicle — were launched from the United Launch Alliance Delta IV launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California today.

There is already one test flight per week for the Delta IV Heavy, the most powerful rocket currently being developed in the U.S. The launch of the new GEO-1 package can be viewed at its mission website.

“This is truly a remarkable day for the Air Force and the ULA family of companies,” Col. Joe D’Angelantonio, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, said in a statement. “The quality of the test flights and our results are truly remarkable.”

The experiment, which is expected to continue for a few years, will allow for hypersonic flight by a medium-sized spaceplane. The test will test re-entry from hypersonic speeds, which will take place four to six minutes later.

The total liftoff time of the three flights was 3:53:42. Four Minuteman II-A nuclear missiles were detonated during one of the tests, by helium dispensers that work like a smoke screen on the ground. No flight-related injuries have been reported.

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