Rocket Sled

Before we wrote the Theory of Osmosis, I helped a friend build a track grinder for a rocket sled track.   I had been working on the project for about a year when I was needed at the project site near Alamogordo, NM  to get the track grinder building project started.   We were grinding the top and side profile for a 300 #/yd pair of rails.  Standard railroad track rail is less than 140 #/yd.   The  rocket sled located at Holloman Air Force base had been used to test maximum acceleration and deceleration rates for pilots, astronauts and for testing ejection seats, etc.  The track was 10 miles long.   It has since been lengthened.

The program goal was to reach a test speed of 8,000 miles per hour (Mach 10).  Speeds greater than Mach 5 are considered hypersonic.  Hypersonic  antimissile-missiles can be used for protection from an enemy missile attack.   The rocket sled provides the tool to test very high-speed missiles.   The missile is mounted to the rocket sled.   Rocket sled  is fired,   missile is fired and at  the end of the run,   both the missile and rocket sled are recovered to evaluate the effects of high-speed accelerations on the missile.     New car designs are tested, and new weapons systems must be tested also. 

 The rocket sled rides on pads which are clamped to the rails.    We have heard that melting the steel rail has been the main speed limiting factor.    They have never reached 8,000 mph.    Twenty  years ago,  the entire rail system was rebuilt and recently,   they released a video of a test that reached 6,599 mph.     “  “

The sled is coming towards the camera at about 2 miles per second.    You can see several light flashes initially, from the multistage rocket used to get the sled up to speed.   And, you can hear a humming sound as the sled is coming towards the camera.   This surprised me since the sled is coming at 8.6 times the speed of sound in air.    The speed of sound in the steel rails is about 3 mph, however.       

Another video version  is at:   “”

©   Larry Howlett     HTMD Engineering     2019

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