The United States Air Force has shattered a land speed record, launching a rocket-powered, magnetically levitated (maglev) sled to a speed of 633 miles per hour (mph).
The previous maglev speed record was 510 mph, set a couple of years ago.
Breaking the record was no easy task, requiring almost six months of planning. One of the challenges the Air Force's 846th Test Squadron faced was creating a smooth ride for its rocket-powered sled, which houses vibration-sensitive equipment. They used liquid helium to cool the magnets to four degrees Kelvin, or four degrees from absolute zero.
The results were a fiery ball of awesome.
The might of maglev
In addition to looking super cool, maglev has the advantage of creating a near-frictionless surface for an object to move upon.
Beyond military applications, the new maglev speed record has implications for use in mass transit.
Currently, the fastest bullet train in the world can only go 375 mph using maglev technology. If engineers can figure out how to sustain these types of speeds for a bullet train, we could see them breaking the sound barrier and offering faster travel than commercial jetliners.
Despite setting a new record, the 846th Test Squadron isn't going to stop pushing for more speed. "What we have planned to do after this test is refine the design of the sled itself," says Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern. "We want to look at some lighter materials and continue to see what kind of capability we can get out of this system in terms of the speeds that we're capable of going."