Monday, July 4, 2022

Who put the hype in hypersonic?

Editors Note: it is the 4th of July 2022. My window is open and the war zone is open for business as well. Followed eventually by the sound of ambulances and fire trucks. 15 miles away from me in the affluent suburb of Highland Park, a shooter killed 6 and wounded 30 up at a 4th of July parade. Right there in the green zone. No one is safe now, was the message. Buy More Guns was the message.  


'National pride is at stake' crows the Science article about the race to develop hypersonic weapons. From the article:

For decades, the U.S. military—and its adversaries—have coveted missiles that travel at hypersonic speed, generally defined as Mach 5 or greater. Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) meet that definition when they re-enter the atmosphere from space. But because they arc along a predictable ballistic path, like a bullet, they lack the element of surprise. In contrast, hypersonic weapons such as China's waverider maneuver aerodynamically, enabling them to dodge defenses and keep an adversary guessing about the target.

The worry being these hypersonic demons are unstoppable. But for a great majority of the time even the predictable ballistic path missile have been unstoppable. There have been gains in anti-missile technology to worry missileers, but certainly much cheaper alternatives to hypersonic flight exist, and one has to assume there are larger reasons to pursue it. Again from the article:

Now, DOD is leading a new charge, pouring more than $1 billion annually into hypersonic research. Competition from ambitious programs in China and Russia is a key motivator. Although hype and secrecy muddy the picture, all three nations appear to have made substantial progress in overcoming key obstacles, such as protecting hypersonic craft from savage frictional heating. Russia recently unveiled a weapon called the Kinzhal, said to reach Mach 10 under its own power, and another that is boosted by a rocket to an astonishing Mach 27. China showed off a rocket-boosted hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) of its own, the Dongfeng-17, in a recent military parade. The United States, meanwhile, is testing several hypersonic weapons. "It's a race to the Moon sort of thing," says Iain Boyd, an aerospace engineer at the University of Colorado, Boulder. "National pride is at stake."

So, simple answer, space war butthead stuff. Not to be dismissive. The tech is fascinating. The tech is finally melding and all the niches for spaceflight are starting to mature. But just to hurl nukes? No dearie dear. Why build a cathedral and use it as a battering ram? My guess is there's a lot more to the Air Force X47-B space plane program than meets the eye. Lots and lots of stuff, not to mention all the Shuttle flights. The USA plays Aw Shucks almost as often as the game of Catch Up. 

And guess what? It is still rocket science. One hundred years on from the Wright brothers and it is still hard stuff to do. 

Everybody is worried about Russia and China when they shouldn't count out Iran. Or India or Pakistan for that matter. We may be looking at Space War One (or Two? I don't know).

It's just more monkey hive honey spent on space monkey hives that will never happen and instead we get a sky full of warbots.

If so, I want a swarm of warbots working for me. 


  1. I don't know what the collective pronoun for a swarm of murderbots and henchmen that make up a warbot construct. Murder of crows. A gang of pirates. A dazzle of zebra.

    1. Roscosmos is about to deploy an ion-drive space tug.

      It will take the U.S. years to figure out and replicate the advance chemical engineering that allowed Russia to make kerosene more rapidly explosive than hydrogen. (propulsion and fuel explosion is the primary limiting factor on transmedium acceleration.)

      As for the rest, Russia starting charting its own path in this sphere with rhythmodynamics and and fairly radically different approach even prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, they initially wanted to partner with the U.S. because it was for the conquest of space.

      Too many gottdayyum ukronazi khazars punching waaaaay above their demographic weight in U.S. foreign policy. Fantasizing about lost riches that the bolsheviks allegedly took from their families and whatnot.

      Now with all the kompromat on Brandon and son, there's no chance charting any course other than total and predictable failure with regard to Russia. More's the pity for U.S.

    2. I am more worried about the sun and the earth than I am about Russkies or PRC. I am more concerned about wearing adult diapers or worse, needing adult diapers as I type this. I'm not afraid of death (eventual or imminent) or old age and pain. I'm afraid of being helpless, dependent again. Which is stupid snce we are all dependent on one another.