Deep in the bone-dry desert, U.S. military personnel outfitted in camouflaged uniforms and heavily tinted sunglasses watch with anticipation as a rocket strapped to a sled blasts off into the distance at a blinding speed. The successful test uses state-of-the-art tech, and results in yet another record-breaking achievement, to which the camo’d personnel watching give hearty, yet measured cheers.
It sounds like a scene out of Iron Man—the Jericho Missile scene specifically—but it was a recent real-life test of a maglev rocket sled at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. And in this most recent test, the rocket sled broke the maglev speed record, clocking in at a blistering 633 miles per hour.
The rocket sled achieved this new record using magnetic levitation, which, regarding transportation systems, uses a series of electromagnets placed along some rails to create strong magnetic fields that repel opposite-facing magnets on the underside of some kind of pod or train, or in this case, a sled. The magnetic levitation in this case is a bit different than other, more prominently used systems however, because it uses superconducting electromagnets that are chilled with liquid helium down to -269 degrees Celsius. Supercooling the electromagnets with the liquid helium allows them to conduct much larger electric currents, and therefore produce stronger magnetic fields. This is all done in an effort to eliminate the friction between, in this case, the sled and the track on which it moves from A to B.
Then, for propulsion, rockets are strapped onto the sled, and before you know it, you have a vehicle that’s breaking the maglev speed record and possibly making headway toward building a faster transportation system that can actually be used by people. Until that day comes however, we’ll have to make do with regular trains, and that one maglev system in Shanghai. Although, Iron Man-errr Elon Musk is working on that whole Hyperloop deal, which may work even better than this.
What do you think about this rocket sled breaking the maglev speed record? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
Images: Holloman AFB