Breaking world speed records is becoming a habit for the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman AFB, N.M. On March 4, the squadron’s magnetically levitated sled rocketed down the track at 633 miles per hour, breaking the 513-mile-per-hour Maglev record the team set two days before, according to an April 14 Holloman release. The sled hit 510 miles per hour on the 2,100-foot-long track in 2013. Magnets cooled four degrees Kelvin above absolute zero, or “four degrees above the coldest an object can possibly get” gave the 2,000-pound sled a smooth ride despite the high speeds, according to the release. The set-up allows for testing of weapon components with little vibration. The 846th plans to lighten the sled for future tests to see what new speeds it can hit, Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern, the squadron’s commander, said in the release.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.