In the New Mexico desert last month, a rocket-powered magnetically-levitated sled broke a world record after it blasted down a track at 633 miles per hour, faster than the cruising speed of a 747.
The test occurred at Holloman Air Force Base on a special 2100-foot track on March 4. Air Force video shows the one-ton vehicle rocketing down the track, a fiery, dusty plume behind it.
“We have a magnetically-levitated sled, where we use a very cold liquid helium to essentially levitate the sled via superconducting magnetics,” Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern, the commander of the 846th Test Squadron, said in the video.
“The test today was significantly faster than any test that we’ve previously done,” Morgenstern added.
The Air Force said that the sled accelerated at a rate of 928 feet per second. Before this test, the sled had reached 513 mph.
Magnetic levitation systems allow for vehicles to travel in a very low-friction environment, permitting incredibly fast speeds— last year, a Japanese maglev train traveled at 374 mph. And Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has proposed a system called the Hyperloop that would use a related technology to move people or cargo at breathtaking speeds.