Defense

February 15, 2013

Magnetic levitation track reaches new world record in speed

Tags:
A1C Daniel E. F. Liddicoet
Holloman AFB, N.M.

af-maglev1
The 846th Test Squadron at Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., successfully performed its most ambitious test to date on the magnetic levitation track at here, Feb. 7. Members of the 846th were able to use the Maglev track in conjunction with a new propulsion system to reach an astounding speed of more than 500 miles per hour.

“We went faster than we’ve ever gone before,” said Jim Daniel, 846th TS business development manager, “and that causes all kinds of interesting risks. In this business, there’s a lot of risk in the unknown, and we’ve never tested the Maglev system under these conditions.”

As Daniel explains, what makes the Maglev track so extraordinary is its ability to mimic flight conditions by drastically reducing the amount of vibration felt by the object being tested. The track enables this effect through the use of four superconductive electromagnets that attach to the test sled like wheels on a car. Once charged with a current, the magnets are able generate enough force to lift the sled about one inch off the track throughout the duration of the rocket propulsion.

Part of what makes the magnets so unique is their ability to display a phenomenon known as superconductivity. Once the magnets are in this state they have exactly zero electrical resistance, meaning that they can maintain a charge without an active current flowing into them. However, in order to reach this state, the magnets must be cooled below their characteristic critical temperature, approximately -450 degrees Fahrenheit. In order to get the magnets to be this cold, liquid helium must be pumped into the magnets until they are cold enough to hold a current. This passive system of charging the magnets differs from the active kind of magnetic levitation used in bullet trains that requires a constant source of electricity. As long as the magnets are cold enough and charged, no additional electrical power is required for them to be able to lift the sled.

Much of the technology used to complete the test was provided to the 846th by General Atomics, the primary contractor of the Maglev track.
af-maglev2
“What we were trying to do was prove the system,” said Daniel, “make sure that it works at higher speeds, and as a subtext of what was going on, we were trying to transition from General Atomics operating the system, to the Air Force operating the system. So it was a test for data, and a test to confirm our initial operating capability. Through the completion of this test, we are truly able to claim the Maglev system as an Air Force asset.”

Though the Maglev track has been tested before, this most recent test pushed its capabilities to the max.

As Daniel describes, six improved Zuni rockets were attached to the sled to provide the thrust necessary to reach the new speed. The sled was aligned along sophisticated dual-track beams made of concrete and embedded with copper, which repelled the magnets to allow for more stabilization.

“There are lots of forces at play with the testing of the Maglev system, you have magnetic forces, the forces from the rocket motors, and the forces from the air drag. All of these forces are fluctuating as the test is being performed, and part of our goal was to determine exactly how they interact with one another so that we can learn more about our capability with magnetic levitation.”

The Maglev’s success at here allows the 846th to provide a ground-based test environment that can accurately simulate the vibrations of a real flight test. Daniel explains that the smoothness of the ride is the Maglev’s key asset. With the stability that the Maglev track can offer, the most delicate components of a payload can be preserved intact throughout the duration of a test.

“It’s a more benign environment,” said Lt. Col. Keith Roessig, 846th TS commander, “the magnetic forces lifting and keeping the sled in the guide way reproduce very closely the aerodynamic loads seen during flight. With temperature, load and vibration instrumentation on the sled combined with high-speed camera footage of the test as it takes place, a complete record of the event is captured for further analysis. As an alternative to flight tests, the Maglev and the traditional steel rail can acquire roughly 90 percent of the data needed at about 10 percent of the cost.”

The test that took place Feb. 7 was the culmination of nearly two decades of intensive research and engineering. On the day of the test, several General Atomics personnel came to witness as the Air Force used the technology they developed to break new ground in magnetic levitation.

“The most exciting part of this test, beyond just the sheer display of power from the rockets, is being able to tell people that we now have this unique capability available using only Air Force personnel and assets, “said Roessig. ” We’re now able to provide quality test data to program offices for a whole new set of electronic systems at a fraction of the risk and cost inherent in flight test. This could truly be the next generation of test track.”

The 846th TS is a geographically separated unit of the 96th Test Wing, headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines October 20, 2014

News: Navy grounds ‘Top Guns’ - The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives.   Business: Boeing seeks revised schedule for U.S. aerial tanker - Boeing is revising its master schedule for developing the new U.S. Air Force...
 
 

News Briefs October 20, 2014

New military medical team to help with Ebola in U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the military to prepare and train a 30-member medical support team that could provide short-term help to civilian health professionals if there are more Ebola cases in the United States. His spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, says the team...
 
 

Dragon ‘fires up’ for flight

The Air Force and NATO are undergoing a cooperative development effort to upgrade the avionics and cockpit displays of AWACS aircraft belonging to the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and the NATO E-3 Sentrys from Geilenkirchen, Germany. The Diminishing Manufacturing Sources Replacement of Avionics for Global Operations and Navigation, otherwise...
 

 
Boeing photographs

Boeing-built X-37B successfully completes third flight

Unmanned spacecraft concludes record-setting 674-day mission   Boeing photograph A third mission of the Boeing-built X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle was completed on Oct. 17, 2014, when it landed and was recovered at Vandenberg...
 
 

Boeing concludes commercial crew space act agreement for CST-100/Atlas V

Boeing has successfully completed the final milestone of its Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Space Act Agreement with NASA. The work and testing completed under the agreement resulted in significant maturation of Boeing’s crew transportation system, including the CST-100 spacecraft and Atlas V rocket. NASA in July approved the Critical Design Review Board milestone for Boeing’...
 
 

AF to release small business research solicitations

The Air Force Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program office is set to release its fiscal year 2015 list of topics Oct. 22, on the SBIR/STTR website.  Small businesses and research institutions with expertise to address the topics’ technology challenges are encouraged to submit proposals. During 2014, the Defense Department SBIR...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>