A Levitating Sled Just Set a New World Speed Record

The maglev rocket-propelled sled traveled near the speed of sound.

4. 26. 16 by Colin Aboy
Airman 1st Class Randahl J. Jenson

Magnetic levitation (maglev) technology is most commonly associated with public transportation, but the U.S. Air Force built maglev sled recently gained attention when it boomed to a speed of 1,109 km/h (633 mph), near Mach 1, and made a world record on March 4.

Actually, it was the second time they broke the record that week, as was noted by Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern, Commander of the 846th Test Squadron at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The sled, weighing in at 900 kg (2000 lb), was designed to test sensitive components inside weapon systems at high speeds on a 640 meter (2100 ft) track.


It was accelerated by rockets to nearly 283 m/s2 (928 ft/s2). Through maglev, the sled traveled nearly frictionless on the long track. The Test Squadron had experienced some uncontrolled factors during their experiment. However, the team is making improvements, and they intend to go at even higher speeds.

Morgenstern noted that they plan to refine their designs and work on other, lighter materials: “What we have planned to do after this test is, refine the design of the sled itself,” he stated. And he adds, “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.”

You can watch it in full below:

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