The US military has been forced to destroy a top secret hypersonic weapon just four seconds after its test flight begun.
The Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW) is designed to reach Mach 6 – or six times the speed of sound (about 5,795kmph or 3,600mph) – and allow the US to strike a target anywhere in the world in less than 60 minutes.
But military bods were forced to press the self-destruct button just a few seconds after it blasted off from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska, which is about 40km (25 miles) from the town of Kodiak.
Happily no one was hurt, but there was some damage at the test facility, although it is unclear how much destruction it caused.
Witnesses saw the rocket launch at about 4:00 EDT (0800 GMT) and then explode in a brilliant ball of light just seconds later.
Maureen Schumann, a spokeswoman for the US Defense Department, said in a statement: "The weapon exploded during takeoff and fell back down in the range complex.
"It came back down on the range complex. Fortunately, no people on the ground were injured. There was damage, but I'm not sure of the extent of it at this time."
The Reg previously covered the test of a hypersonic missile back in 2011, which seemed to go a little better.
On that happier occasion, the AHW took off from the island of Kauai and splashed down close to its target coordinates, some 2,400 miles away at the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll.
The AHW is a so-called "boost and glide" weapon, a missile that zooms into the atmosphere before gliding downwards at hypersonic speeds. Both China and Russia are also developing these weapons, which could potentially bypass missile defences.
Of course, this might be done using an intercontinental ballistic missile, but these traditional weapons have a habit of making nations think a nuclear war has begun - whereupon Armageddon might actually begin. Of course, using any sort of weapon could also spark nuclear war, because even a tomahawk can be loaded with a nuke.
There are also nicer uses for a boost-glide machine, a fact ably demonstrated by the space shuttle. Dare we hope that the American military industrial complex's latest wheeze helps humanity spend more time in space? Or is it just another hideously expensive way of helping humanity get off the planet in a more destructive manner? ®