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Hypersonic sled sets speed of sound record

The achievement marks a historic event for the team’s Hypersonic Sled Recovery effort.

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A hypersonic sled travels 6,400-feet per second on a monorail and is recovered as part of the Hypersonic Sled Recovery effort at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in March 2022.(Deidre R Moon/USAF via SWNS)

By Dean Murray via SWNS

The U.S. Air Force has successfully recovered a reusable hypersonic rocket sled for the first time after traveling at more than five times the speed of sound.

An announcement on June 2 reported the 846th Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, were able to retrieve the vehicle following a recorded speed of 6,400 feet per second, or Mach 5.8.

The achievement, which occurred in late March 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.

Lt. Col. Paul Dolce, Commander, 846th Test Squadron (846 TS), congratulated those involved: “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. 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."

A hypersonic sled travels 6,400-feet per second on a monorail and is recovered as part of the Hypersonic Sled Recovery effort at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, in March 2022. (Deidre R Moon/USAF via SWNS).
FILE PICTURE (July 2021): A hypersonic sled ready to undergo a High Speed Recovery (HSR) test at the Arnold Engineering Development Complex High Speed Test Track at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. (Deidre R Moon/USAF via SWNS)

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 said.

“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.

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