The United States Air Force has just done the unthinkable and broken the speed record for a magnetically-levitating vehicle.
The magic number is 633 miles per hour; the 2,000-pound vehicle, dubbed the Maglev Sled, moved across a 6,400-meter track in the middle of a desert in New Mexico, leaving nothing but a smokescreen of dust behind it from the sand it kicked up.
Interestingly, the same vehicle actually broke the magnetically-levitating vehicle speed record more than once this year. The Maglev sled reportedly reached 513 miles per hour on its first attempt earlier in the year, and on the most recent attempt, the Air Force announced the 633 miles per hour speed that shattered that record.
At this speed, the vehicle moved across the length of almost seven entire football fields in a mere two seconds.
You can watch the official Air Force video via YouTube here:
The Air Force is experimenting with magnet-based levitation because they’re interested in seeing where the technology can go. The superconducting magnets are super-cooled with liquid helium to give the ride consistent levitating effect. Any differences in temperature, and the ride wouldn’t be as smooth.
The Air Force believes that they can continue to shed weight off of the vehicle and make it go even faster.
"What we have planned to do after this test is refine the design of the sled itself," Lt. Col. Shawn Morgenstern said in a statement. "We want to look at some lighter materials and continue to see what kind of capability we can get out of this system in terms of the speeds that we're capable of going."
There’s no word yet on what the goal speed is, but at this point, it looks like they’re just experimenting to see how fast they can actually go with modern materials and technology.
The idea is very similar to that of recent Hyperloop prototype tests, but it looks like the military is playing with the big boy toys and wants to make something even bigger and better than something for commercial use.