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Science

Land Speed Record Broken: 0-6,400 in Six Seconds 362

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the faster-than-a-speeding-bullet dept.
linuxwrangler writes "Researchers at Holloman AFB have broken their own two decades old land speed record for rail vehicles. The rocket powered sled covered the 3 mile track in roughly 6 seconds. Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at mach 8.6 or about 6,400 mph - it covered the last 1.8 miles in just 1.3 seconds. The previous record of 6,122 mph was set on Oct. 5, 1982. Other accounts are at the Alamogordo Daily News, the Denver Post, and CNN."
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Land Speed Record Broken: 0-6,400 in Six Seconds

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  • In Britain .. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by ethnocidal (606830) on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:41AM (#5860720) Homepage
    We had something like this running during the mid 1990s. The speeds were incredible; it used the three decade old mothballed British launch vehicle rocket motors, which were abandoned after our nuclear deterrent moved onto submarine launched ballistics.

    The record would have been held by the land on which the rain never stops, but for the fact there were some irritating leaves on the line during summer and autumn months. Winter was ruled out by that pesky light dusting of snow, and after unfortunate incidents with hypersonic sparrows in spring, the whole project was abandoned in favour of the 'wobbly train' approach to high speed cornering.
    • by Munra (580414) <slashdot@jonatha ... Nuk minus distro> on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:47AM (#5860741) Homepage
      Apparently First Great Western trains (that's a UK train company, for those not in the know) have begun trialling this technology for their mainline service between Bristol and London.

      Theoretically the time for this journey could be cut to just over a minute, but taking into account the breaking zone needed, and the areas of 'slow track' where the train runs at 30Mph maximum, the estimated time for this journey would be somewhere in the region of 2 hours; a marked 5 minute saving in time.
      • that might be true, but now the train company would have all the right to make their trains look like rockets :)
      • Unfortunately there was a 3 hour delay caused by the "wrong type of rockets".

        Rich.

      • Re:In Britain .. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mpe (36238)
        Apparently First Great Western trains (that's a UK train company, for those not in the know) have begun trialling this technology for their mainline service between Bristol and London.

        The real irony is that some of the current trains First Great Western run actually take longer than when the service was run by GWR using steam powered trains.

    • I remeber hearing a story about a guy who got hold of some JATO rockets (the kind they use for getting big jets to takeoff faster) and strapped them to the side of his car. He took it out into..........

      Oh, err, nevermind
  • fun (Score:3, Funny)

    by UniverseIsADoughnut (170909) on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:41AM (#5860722)
    "Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at mach 8.6 or about 6,400 mph - it covered the last 1.8 miles in just 1.3 seconds."

    Weeeeeeee!!!!
  • Metric Conversion (Score:5, Informative)

    by asciimonster (305672) on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:47AM (#5860740) Journal
    For the non-US people in the world:

    "Researchers at Holloman AFB have broken their own two decades old land speed record for rail vehicles. The rocket powered sled covered the 4.8 km track in roughly 6 seconds. Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at mach 8.6 or about 10300 km/h - it covered the last 2.9 km in just 1.3 seconds. The previous record of 9851 km/h was set on Oct. 5, 1982. Other accounts are at the Alamogordo Daily News, the Denver Post, and CNN."

    Maybe we should make a rule that say you always have to supply metric and imperial units... It would make my job so much easier...
    • "Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at mach 8.6 or about 10300 km/h"

      bah..you and your metric and imperial units.

      What we really want to know is...how fast is that in Libraries of Congress(LOC)/second.
    • by Snotboble_ (13797) <ajeNO@SPAMsnotboble.net> on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:12AM (#5861033) Homepage Journal
      Who in the World would use METRICS? Such a complicated system where you have to *add* and *remove* 0's to convert?

      No, it's _way_ easier to remember that there's 5280 feet on the mile and 202 US gallons on the cubic yard. Who can remember that there's 1000 meters on the kilometer? Or 1000 liters on the cubic meter? How non-standard is that?

      Besides, who else than the rest of the World uses metric anyway?

      • by 4of12 (97621) on Friday May 02, 2003 @09:19AM (#5861330) Homepage Journal

        Damn straight.

        That's why I always quote my gasoline mileage in inverse acres.

      • by pmz (462998) on Friday May 02, 2003 @09:59AM (#5861544) Homepage
        Q: How does a Unix guru have sex? A: unzip;strip;touch;finger;mount;fsck;more;yes;umoun t;sleep

        A real UNIX guru would put that into a script run by a cron task that pages him (obviously a him writing scripts like this) upon successful execution.
      • ... who else than the rest of the World uses metric anyway?

        It's only the rest of the world who uses metric, so who cares.

        I can tell you WHY they use it: expressing their speeds in kilometers per hour makes it sound as if they're really going fast. It helps make up for their dinky cars with under nourished hamsters for engines. The metric system is really just a coping mechanism for an inferiority complex.

        If we wanted to bring the rest of the workd back to the traditional system, all we'd have to do

    • Actually, some of us use real units not because we are from the US, but because they are more comfortable and intuitive, having evolved through use rather than being arbitrarily dictated by pompous French people.
    • by your_mother_sews_soc (528221) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:54AM (#5861203)
      I'm sure we could take care of this using XML (or maybe not - I am ingorant in the area of XML). But if the W3C had included some "weights and measures" tags in the HTML standard then we could leave it up to the browser and/or client OS to apply localization rules and perform the proper conversions.

      Just a thought, but does anyone know of this was ever suggested?
    • My rocket sled gets forty rods to the hogshead and that's the way I likes it!
    • One problem (Score:3, Interesting)

      by donscarletti (569232)
      Oct. 5, 1982

      Sorry for being whiney but I think all metric using, english speaking countries put the day before the month, i.e. 5th Oct. 1982 or 5/10/1982. Forming a nice natural progression between the smallest unit and the largest unit.

      Of course I think the system that is used by the Japaneese amoung others, is even better: yyyy mm dd forming the same progression as the hindu arabic number system by putting the largest unit first.

      I think around the world only three countries do not have a unit magnitud

    • If you're going to make it INTERnational friendly, you have to go ALL THE WAY. Refer to european articles and get the time right.

      Specifically, change the last sentence from:

      The previous record of 9851 km/h was set on Oct. 5, 1982. Other accounts are at the Alamogordo Daily News, the Denver Post, and CNN.

      to...

      The previous record of 9851 km/h was set on

      5 Oct 1982. Other accounts are at the London Daily News, the Paris Examinoir, and EuroDisney Reporter.

    • Hey, thanks. I was just wondering if it was fast or not.
    • Good start, but you haven't converted all the way, for those of us who don't want to think in crazy units based on mulitples of twelve, or non-absolute scales with arbitrary datum points:

      "Researchers at Holloman AFB have broken their own 631 megaseconds old land speed record for rail vehicles. The rocket powered sled covered the 4.8 kilometer track in roughly 6 seconds. Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at Mach 8.6 or about 2.86 kilometers per second - it covered the last 2.9 kilometers in just 1.3
      • by Noren (605012) on Friday May 02, 2003 @12:08PM (#5862472)
        Close, but this clearly should be in scientific notation, for those of us who don't want to use and remember all those prefixes.

        "Researchers at Holloman AFB have broken their own 6.49 x 10^8 seconds old land speed record for rail vehicles. The rocket powered sled covered the 4.8 x 10^3 meter track in roughly 6 seconds. Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at Mach 8.6 or about 2.86 x 10^3 meters per second - it covered the last 2.9 x 10^3 meters in just 1.3 seconds. The previous record of 2.74 x 10^3 meters per second was set at 1982-10-05 [cam.ac.uk]. Other accounts are at the Alamogordo 8.64 x 10^4 secondly News, the Denver Post, and CNN."

        There, that's much better, right?

    • ...in roughly 6 seconds.

      What the hell? No metric time?

      Allow me to assist, assuming that the earth's rotation yields 10 kilodeconds (or "Kil's", as in "What Kil is it?") a day, where 1 decond = 0.1157407 seconds (407 repeating).

      So, once again the article in full metric glory.

      "Researchers at Holloman AFB have broken their own two decades old land speed record for rail vehicles. The rocket powered sled covered the 4.8 km track in roughly .694 deconds. Preliminary numbers put the sled's speed at mach 8.6 o
  • by Renegade Lisp (315687) * on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:47AM (#5860742)
    I was wondering what the driver had to say after he got out of this thing, but then I did the maths...

    Not sure if I interpret the numbers correctly, but for the acceleration I get 207 m/s^2 on the first, 4.65 sec stage, and 755 m/s^2 on the second, 1.3 sec stage, which is about 21g and 76g, respectively.

    No, there wasn't a driver in this thing :-)

    • Well, maybe there *was* a driver. There certainly is no longer a driver now, though. :-)
    • Either that or they got him out with a mop and bucket afterwards...
  • by petej (36394) on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:49AM (#5860750)
    I think the Darwin award winner from a few years back did this first -- you know, the guy who strapped a JATO unit to his Pinto.
  • by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:50AM (#5860753) Homepage
    ..a curry through you on a Friday night

    Rus
  • I wonder ... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Currawong (563634)
    From Newsday.com's article [newsday.com]:

    The sled was designed to cover the first 1.4 miles in 4.65 seconds, then speed up in the final stages and cover 1.8 miles in 1.3 seconds, Kurtz said. At the end, bolts were detonated to allow the missile to detach from the sled and successfully hit its target.

    I wonder if this has military implications?

  • Beep beep! (Score:5, Funny)

    by NonSequor (230139) on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:54AM (#5860764) Journal
    Were they trying to catch a road runner or something?
  • by rf0 (159958)
    Looking over the links can't see anything about how you stop this sort of thing. Do they just let it crash into a wall of have some sort of parachute after the rockets have burnt out

    Rus
    • ended in a spray of sparks when a missile carried by the sled slammed into an immobile target.

      I'm guessing it didn;t make it through the test in one peice... maybe it made it through in a cloud of dust though

      dave
    • Re:Stopping (Score:3, Funny)

      by maharg (182366)
      from the first link at http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/news/a/2 0 03/05/01/national1355EDT0644.DTL

      The test, in a remote area of the base, started with a brilliant, multihued blaze of rocket engines and ended in a spray of sparks when a missile carried by the sled slammed into an immobile target. There was silence until a split second before the end, when earsplitting bursts rolled across the desert floor.

      Seems like they have a fairly effective braking system. I wonder what the immobile targe
  • by gr8fulnded (254977) on Friday May 02, 2003 @06:59AM (#5860780)
    Anyone who's ever seen 95, N.VA, in the middle of rush hour isn't impressed.

    I've seen 80 yr old ladies flying faster then that.

    --Dave
    • Hell with 95, it's 270 right after the split off of 495 (also NoVa area - I guess we're talking MD now.) 495 is always packed as hell, and then suddenly glorious 270 with 6 lanes and no traffic opens up...
    • I think that's the normal flow of traffic on the 210 west of Pasadena, also.

      Of course, in MD the folks on the roller coaster (Ga to Conn ave on the beltay) only seem to do about half this speed, but what makes it impressive is how they do it while eating and talking on the phone while still averaging a dozen lane changes per mile!
    • 95 in the middle of rush hour is a study in *slow* speeds. All other times of the day, the traffic would give this rocket a run for its money
  • Wrong goal. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EasyTarget (43516) on Friday May 02, 2003 @07:05AM (#5860803) Journal
    Wouldn't it be nice if humanity could do this super cool stuff without the ultimate aim being to find more efficient ways of killing people.

    The arms industry often shocks me, rarely awe's me.
    • Re:Wrong goal. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CausticWindow (632215)

      Sorry matey. There's no such thing as the "humanity". There's the US of A and then there is the rest of the world.

      Incidently, it's the US that are developing (and using) most of the weapons.

    • Re:Wrong goal. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Moschaef (624770)
      Actually, this is part of an effort to save lives. It's being developed by the Missile Defense Agency and if used operationally, it will probably save millions of lives. Just existing provides monumental deterrence to rogue countries like North Korea or some billionaire terrorist who has purchased an old soviet missile.

      For those who think it will instigate an arms race, do you really think they can build more ICBMs than we can build ABMs? One former super power, The USSR, tried to match our military indust
      • Re:Wrong goal. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SpinyNorman (33776)
        The US is only financially kept afloat due to loans from the rest of the world - $6.4T and increasing. The world next war is going to be an undeclared economic one, and the main weapon won't be a rocket powered sled - it'll be the Euro.

      • Re:Wrong goal. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by protohiro1 (590732) on Friday May 02, 2003 @10:44AM (#5861886) Homepage Journal
        Or the billionaire terrorist might grow a brain and just stick a hydrogen bomb in a shipping container and dentonate it in the port of long beach. Cheaper, easier and much more likely to succeed. Terrorists don't use ICBMS.
  • by tankdilla (652987) on Friday May 02, 2003 @07:09AM (#5860816) Homepage Journal
    At approximately 88 mph the vehicle became a blur and seemingly vanished, and after 6 seconds it appeared at the end of the track. A scientist known as "Doc" was subsequently questioned about the contribution of the controversial flux capacitor technology used to power the vehicle, but he declined to comment. All he kept saying was "Great Scott!!!"
  • by 2sleep2type (652900) on Friday May 02, 2003 @07:12AM (#5860824)
    Rather tricky to get the numbers on this when it's passing through.
  • And just this morning my 100 mile trainride took me 2 hours thanks to a freight-train running in front of us.

    How about different kinds of railed vehicles...

  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Friday May 02, 2003 @07:14AM (#5860829)
    Shares in the Acme Novelty company have risen 23 percent.
  • G - forces (Score:2, Interesting)

    by krygny (473134)

    I'd be interested to know how many G's you'd pull at that rate of acceleration. Yes, I know, I could dust off my old physics text books and calculate it. But I'm not that interested and I'm not posting it as a challenge because it's not that hard, so don't go there.

    Just a thought, even though I'm too lazy.

  • Every once in a while, the quest to build the fastest car, train, whatever, is on Discovery.

    But these vehicles are merely planes touching the ground. The real quest, in my eyes, would be building a vehicle that is powered through its wheels, not a giant rocketmotor. At least if the quest is to build a car or a train, not a rocket!
    • You are quibbling about power transfer methods. Simply put though, air resistance becomes much greater than your friction level contact between drive wheel and surface. Once you loose traction and spin at 400+ mph, you do serious damage to the friction material on your wheel, which won't be anything like you know as a pneumatic tire/wheel setup. The last land speed vehicles have had aluminum wheels with no rubber, it wouldn't stay attached at the speeds reached anyway. Then the matter of trying to get t
  • by Timesprout (579035) on Friday May 02, 2003 @07:36AM (#5860895)
    Signs of nervousness in the Syrian leadership as the US announce they intend to build a new high speed rail link between Baghdad and Damascus as a gesture of goodwill.
  • Of Dubious Value? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JoseMonkey (64123) on Friday May 02, 2003 @07:41AM (#5860909)
    Call me cynical, but I'm trying to figure out if this type of research has real merit, or if it is entirely masturbatory. What's the point exactly?

    It's a military project, i.e., tax-payer funded, so I'd like to hear some relevant, practical uses for said technology. It sounds like it was used to deliver a bullet-type missle in this case. Something tells me that you couldn't really use this delivery method in an actual *war* . . .
    • One obvious application would be a rocket-assisted, ground-penetrating bomb or missile. They are already using old artillery tubes packed with explosives and fitted with guidance/steering units as "bunker busters". There is a lot of interest in weapons that can destroy deeply buried command and control facilities.
  • Here's the deal: Regardless of whether the "vehicle" makes contact with the ground via wheels or a rail, it more or less is flying while in contact with the ground. Anyone who remembers "blue lightning" will recall that it was/is a missle painted blue with a driver's seat and wheels. If you want a record for the fastest gasoline-powered car, that's a whole separate arena. These people are trying to get something that 1) goes the fastest while 2) remaining in contact with the ground in some way. The reason this craft could go so fast is precisely because the rail system reduces the friction from the ground to a significant degree.
    • It's pretty lame though, if UT Austin just took their railgun and fired a hot wheels car out of it along the ground instead of into it, they'd be the new winners. I know it's not a requirement for the definition, but I don't think it's really a "vehicle" unless it has pilots. This is just a projectile.

      The interesting land speed records are the cars with pilots, and the unpowered, using some sick-ass bicycles. I met the (former?) world record holder "Fast Freddy" in Santa Cruz a while back, where he is now

  • I remember reading a book that speculated about the kind of speeds that trains could reach for transatlantic deep tunnels to hop across the world in no time at all without the airplanes...

    Unfortunately I think the heat these things generate would make the whole thing untenable... Plus of course the air pressure problems (though I seem to remember the tunnels being vacuums - with their own issues...)

  • Why they built it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MyNameIsFred (543994) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:02AM (#5860992)
    Several posts have asked if this has military applications. The answer is yes for testing. They use the sled to examine the interactions between weapons and targets in a controlled dynamic environment. For example, you park an aircraft at the end of the rail. Shot a warhead down the track and let it hit the target.

    Why not do this in the air? You can carefully place cameras and other instrumentations to observe the test. Afterwards, you can easily collect debris for further analysis.

    Why set a new land-speed record? Think of the Republican Party's wildest dream -- National Missile Defense.

    • This is one way that you can guarantee sucessful targeting by the missile defense system.

      When you see incomming missiles, you quickly build a railway up to the missiles and crash big nasty trains into them.
    • They use the sled to examine the interactions between weapons and targets in a controlled dynamic environment.

      That's what they wrote, but, really, they just thought it would be cool to see something going mach 8 hit a wall. Who wouldn't want to see that?
  • by flamingdog (16938) on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:06AM (#5861010) Homepage
    Damn, that thing would probably go faster than light if it had a 5" exhaust pipe that made it sound like a go-kart, a body kit, a spoiler higher than its roof, new rims and low profile tires, and a paint job that made it look like vaginal expulsions...

    I mean, wow, what if those scientists really fucking knew what they were doing and did some of those high-tech mods like new spark plug wires, and painting the engine block? Holy shit...

    Oh wait...nevermind...
  • but ... (Score:3, Funny)

    by The Clockwork Troll (655321) * on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:07AM (#5861017) Journal
    That thing got a hemi?
  • So, is this the first step toward a railgul type launching platform? The payload on this sled was about 200 pounds. Can you make satellites that small?
  • Sonic Wind 1 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by wowbagger (69688) * on Friday May 02, 2003 @08:27AM (#5861081) Homepage Journal
    At the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center [comso.org] they have the original Sonic Wind 1 [army.mil] rocket sled. They also have a video loop of some of the test runs of this beast.

    Remember that Sonic Wind was all about trying to determine what would happen to a pilot who ejected at speeds greater than Mach 1 - so the occupant of Sonic Wind 1 was sitting on the front of the sled without any windscreen.

    In the video, as the craft exceeds Mach 1, you can see the shock waves (a.k.a. sonic booms) forming off the craft, including one forming off the pilot himself.

    That always gets me.

  • wouldn't that be the land acceleration record???


  • Is that, typically like any Amtrak train, it ran a few hours late...
  • by barzok (26681) on Friday May 02, 2003 @09:28AM (#5861376)
    6400 MPH should be enough for anyone.
  • by psychofox (92356) on Friday May 02, 2003 @12:24PM (#5862637)
    Based on my rough calculations,

    If this thing had turning wheels (with say 20cm diameter) then at maximum speed, the wheels would be spinning at 220,000 rpm - or to put it another way about 30 times faster than the average desktop harddisk.

    I don't believe there is any known material that not disintegrate subjected to such stress...

    So, if the thing doesn't have wheels - I'd hardly call it a land vehicle. Its more like a low flying rocket...
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Friday May 02, 2003 @02:58PM (#5864044)
    Did it have a VTEC sticker on it?

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