May 1 2003
AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- A rocket-powered sled shot down
a 3-mile straightaway in about six seconds to break a
world record that had stood for two decades.
The monorail sled set the land speed mark for rail
vehicles early Wednesday at the Holloman High Speed Test
Track, testing a 192-pound bullet-shaped payload being
developed by the 846th Test Squadron and the Missile
The test, in a
remote area of the base, started with a brilliant,
multihued blaze of rocket engines and ended in a spray
of sparks when a missile carried by the sled slammed
into an immobile target. There was silence until a split
second before the end, when earsplitting bursts rolled
across the desert floor.
``Psychologically, you think it's over. But then comes
the sonic boom. I know it's coming. But I always jump a
little,'' said Lt. Col. Russ Kurtz, director of
Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at Mach 8.6 -
almost nine times the speed of sound - or about 6,400
mph, said Lt. Col. James Jolliffe, 846th Test Squadron
commander. The previous record was Mach 8, or 6,122 mph,
set on Oct. 5, 1982, also at Holloman.
``There were a lot of high five's, hugs, handshakes all
around,'' Jolliffe said. ``My hat's off to all the
people that made it happen.''
The sled was designed to cover the first 1.4 miles in
4.65 seconds, then speed up in the final stages and
cover 1.8 miles in 1.3 seconds, Kurtz said. At the end,
bolts were detonated to allow the missile to detach from
the sled and successfully hit its target.
An upgrade, started in 1997, converted the sled to a
double, narrow-gauge track, reducing vibration and
allowing faster speeds.
Base spokesman Bob Pepper had no information on whether
any higher speeds had been reached by land vehicles
other than sleds, because the base doesn't do other
types of land speed experiments.
Copyright © 2003, South Florida