ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. — The U.S. Air Force have successfully recovered a reusable hypersonic rocket sled for the first time – after it traveled more than five times the speed of sound!
The 846th Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico was able to retrieve the vehicle after it recorded a speed of 6,400 feet per second — or Mach 5.8. The achievement at the 59,971 ft-long (11 mile) Holloman High Speed Test Track (HHSTT) marks a historic event for the team’s Hypersonic Sled Recovery effort.
The sled allows extreme stress tests on potential hypersonic missile materials by firing them along the track at Mach 5 and above. It offers a cost-effective ground test alternative to expensive developmental flight tests.
Fastest monorail test in 30 years
“What you accomplished marked the fastest recovery of a monorail sled in over 30 years, and the first time we have recovered a planned reusable sled at those speeds ever,” says Lt. Col. Paul Dolce, Commander, 846th Test Squadron, in a media release. “Truly historic in my books! This could not have been done without everyone here who works at the track.”
“These efforts will now setup our future HyTIP [Hypersonic Test and Evaluation Investment Portfolio] runs for success and add a new capability for our hypersonic customers.”
Daniel Lopez, a project manager for the HHSTT, added that he hopes this is a sign of future successful hypersonic recovery tests.
“I echo what Lt. Col. Dolce said,” Lopez says. “Excellent job to the entire team for their hard work and innovation. This just sets the bar that much higher.”
The 846 TS has been responding to a significant increase in demand for hypersonic weapons testing, with a focus on improving its high-speed breaking capability in order to recover sleds for post-test analysis. HHSTT is the only sled track capable of recovering sleds with test articles from velocities over Mach 5.
The track serves as a critical link between laboratory-type investigations and full-scale flight tests by simulating selected portions of the flight environment under accurately programmed and instrumented conditions.