Sandia launches research rockets in hypersonic strike test

By Jason Sherman / October 21, 2021 at 2:54 PM

Sandia National Laboratories launched a trio of research rockets in support of a Pentagon project to develop and field a long-range hypersonic weapon, the Navy announced today, lofting instrumented boosters over the Atlantic Ocean from a U.S. government launch pad in Virginia.

On Oct. 20, the Navy Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) and the Army Hypersonic Program Office (AHPO) conducted a "High Operational Tempo for Hypersonics flight campaign" at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in support of a common weapon the two services are developing under different names: the Navy's Conventional Prompt Strike and the Army's Long Range Hypersonic Weapon.

"Three precision sounding rocket launches were conducted containing hypersonic experiments from partners, including CPS, AHPO, the Joint Hypersonic Transition Office, SNL, Johns Hopkins University/Applied Physics Laboratory, MITRE, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and several defense contractors," according to the Navy announcement.

"During weapon system development, precision sounding rocket launches fill a critical gap between ground testing and full system flight testing,” according to the statement. “These launches allow for frequent and regular flight-testing opportunities to support rapid maturation of offensive and defensive hypersonic technologies."

Sandia designed the common-hypersonic glide body the Navy and Army are adopting for their respective weapons; this payload will be integrated with a new, two-stage booster Lockheed Martin is developing and slated to fly for the first time next year.