(RightWing.org) – The former Soviet Union surprised the world when it launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, in October 1957. Weighing only about 184 pounds, the basketball-sized crewless spacecraft orbited the Earth every 96 minutes until 1958, when it fell out of orbit and burned in the planet’s atmosphere. A recent report compared the resulting race to conquer space and the current arms race between the US and its adversaries.
On July 19, The Hill published an opinion piece discussing America’s so-called “Sputnik moment.” Penned by former Navy Rear Admiral and Veteran’s Affairs Assistant Secretary for Operations Donald Loren, the op-ed detailed recent efforts by China and Russia to advance their hypersonic weapons programs.
Loren reported that the Russians had been using Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ballistic missiles as part of its war effort in Ukraine. The weapons travel at hypersonic speeds, with some reports indicating they can travel as fast as Mach 10. The system entered service in late 2017 and can carry conventional and nuclear warheads. Ukraine reportedly shot down a few Kh-47s using US Patriot Missile systems.
Similarly, the Chinese reportedly have more advanced hypersonic weapons than the Russians. For instance, the communist country officially unveiled the Dongfeng-41 solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile system in later 2019. With a range of nearly 7,500 of miles, the missile reportedly can reach a top speed of Mach 25, leaving comparable US systems in its dust. China also started using the Dongfeng-17, a medium-range ballistic missile system, at about the same time. Described as a hypersonic glide vehicle instead of a conventional reentry warhead, it can reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10.
Inversely, Loren noted that American defense contractors remain stuck in the research, development, and testing stages of hypersonic weapons. Turning his attention back to Russia’s Sputnik program, he offered some reason for hope using historical precedent.
Loren explained that former President Dwight Eisenhower prioritized America’s space program, and scientists launched the Explorer 1 satellite, a superior spacecraft, in February 1958. He followed up five months later by signing the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which established NASA.
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