In March this year, this year, 846th Test Squadron at the Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico successfully recovered a used sled that had been repurposed and was traveling at hypersonic speeds of Mach 5.8 according to The U.S. Air Force said in a press announcement. It was the fastest recovery of a sled over the past three decades.
It is also home to Holloman AFB is also home to the Holloman High-Speed Test Track (HHSTT) which was constructed in 1949 in order to provide the most realistic and cost-effective test environment for systems, weapons, and other parts. The facility is used by all units of the U.S. military and also helps procurement agencies and defense contractors analyze the technology and components in development.
The Holloman High-Speed Test Track
The HHSTT was just 3,350 feet (1.021 meters) long at the time of construction. In the course of time, the track’s length was increased and is now 50,971 feet (15,536 meters) long. This is a little less than 10 miles.
The tracks are used to launch rocket-powered testing vehicles. They are also known as sleds. More than 12,000 of these tests on sleds have been conducted at the facility for more than five years, and the facility has been operating since. In addition to aerodynamic tests and speed tests, the facility has served as a test site for other technologies like erosion and rain tests as well as test for dispensing weapons.
Along with being the longest road in the world as well, it also earned the distinction of being the fastest track in the world in 2003 after a test sled was able to reach the speed of hypersonic Mach 8.6. This was at speeds that is 9,465 feet (2.8 km) per second.
The track is an essential link between laboratory studies and full-scale flight tests. Researchers are able to simulate certain parts of the flight simulation environment in closely controlled conditions within the HHSTT.
Restoring hypersonic sleds
The results of hypersonic tests can provide a wealth of information about the weapon’s flight capabilities and endurance before more costly flight tests start. Once the weapon is in flight trials the odds of recovering components in order to examine flight impact decrease significantly. This is the reason why the HHSTT has focused on Hypersonic Sled Recovery (HSR) and also. Recovered sleds are able to gather vital post-test information, particularly for new weapon systems, such as hypersonic missiles.
The 846 Test Squadron at HHSTT is working on improving the high-speed brakes at the facility. The team was able to stop a sled in March. the test team was able to stop the sled, which was traveling with a velocity of 6400 feet (1,950 meters) every second.
“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,” Lieutenant. Colonel. Paul Dolce, Commander, 846th Test Squadron told the members of the team following the test in the press release. “These efforts will now set up our future HyTIP [Hypersonic Test and Evaluation Investment Portfolio] runs for success and add a new capability for our hypersonic customers.”