China successfully tested a hypersonic aircraft on Friday (Aug. 3), one that could one day be capable of firing nuclear missiles around the planet at up to six times the speed of sound, according to China’s state-run news site China Daily.
The aircraft, known as Starry Sky-2, is reportedly capable of screaming across the sky at speeds of up to 4,563 mph (7,344 km/h) and rapidly switching direction mid-flight, China Daily reported, potentially allowing the rocket to blast right past existing missile defense systems.
Video of the Starry Sky-2 test launch (which was conducted in an undisclosed location in northwestern China) showed the aircraft being launched into space on a multistage rocket. The aircraft then separated from its launcher and continued flying on its own power, soaring at about Mach-5.5 (five and a half times the speed of sound) for 400 seconds, China Daily reported. The aircraft then performed several maneuvers at an altitude of about 18 miles (29 km) before landing in a designated target zone — a demonstration that witnesses heralded as a “huge success,” according to a statement quoted in the South China Morning Post.