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1000mph on land — that’s what the team behind the Bloodhound SSC Land Speed Record car hopes to achieve in 2014.
It’s a massive target, as any of the Bloodhound team will tell you. The current record, which was set by Thrust SSC in 1997, is 763mph. However, the extra 237mph needed to break the 1000mph barrier means employing groundbreaking, unproven technology.
It was one such technology that I went to see being tested on October 3. The hybrid rocket, which will power the car alongside a Eurojet EJ200 engine, was tested for the first time down in Cornwall and despite some uncertainty beforehand — “we really don’t know whether this will work” — the rocket firing went to plan. It created 14,000 lbs of thrust, with the Cosworth F1 engine pumping fluid into it at 820psi. To say that it was a massive step forward would be an understatement. The rocket is the single biggest ‘unknown’ on the car and is the secret to unlocking the 1000mph barrier.
It’s not all about the rocket, however, as the groundbreaking technology fills every other aspect of the LSR challenger.
1) The EJ200 jet will produce 20 233 lbs of thrust and the hybrid rocket 27,427a total of 47,660.
2) Since the jet engine was designed as an integrated component of the Eurofighter Typhoon, in essence its control systems have had to be ‘tricked’ so that it still thinks it’s fitted to the Typhoon and flying at altitude.
While Thrust SSC used two jet engines, it was decided early on that a rocket would be needed to push the new car up to 1000mph. A Typhoon jet can do over 900mph with two EJ2005, but that doesn’t have wheels dragging along the ground.
The idea is straightforward enough: use the jet engine to get to 350mph, then ignite the hybrid rocket, which will gradually build the speed over the next 5.5 miles to 1000mph. Straightforward? Well, not really. Not only will the rocket require a Coswodh Fl engine to power its fuel pump, but with two types of power there is more to go wrong. Especially since the hybrid rocket which uses a mix of solid fuel and liquid oxidiser has been designed like no other.
1) At 1000mph every square metre of bodywork will be subjected to 12.5 tonnes of force.
2) If at 750mph Thrust SSC’s nose had pitched up by even half a degree it would have taken off at 30g. The Bloodhound will be going 250mph faster. One of the biggest challenges for the chief of aerodynamics Ron Ayers, who also worked on the Thrust SSC and JOB Dieselmax projects, was how to package the jet engine and the rocket. Initially the rocket was put on top, but that was pushing the nose
of the car into the ground. The winglets at the front could counteract this, but if there was a hydraulics failure the winglets would have to have a default position. A default could work at high or low speed, but not both. The rocket and jet have since been switched over and the design of the car finished.
1) The car needs to be able to handle the same power as 180 Formula 1 cars.
2) The suspension loads alone will peak at 30 tonnes. The chassis, which is in the process of being built, consists of a one-piece carbon-fibre front and then a spaceframe rear. A big hurdle has been creating a car stiff enough to endure the forces at 1000mph. There aren’t even aircraff that would be stiff enough. “We are talking about a vehicle,” said chief designer Mark Chapman, “that is getting on
for 46-ff long, weighs over seven and a half tonnes and has to deal variously with 47,500Ibs of thrust, going through the sound barrier 2-pg acceleration followed swiffly by 3+g deceleration, and going over the odd bump. It’s not so much a racing car, more a supersonic truck!”
1) Daniel Jubb, the 28-year-old rocket developer, was 13 years old when he started his rocket company Falcon Project and is entirely self-taught.
2) The rocket will produce 186 decibels 25 times louder than a 747 taking off.
Once the decision was made that a rocket would be needed to reach 1000mph, the team then had to chose between solid fuel, like a firework uses, and liquid fuel like that used by the Saturn V rocket, which launched six manned lunar landings.
The problem with solid fuel is that once lit, you can’t put it out. That’s not a problem on a space vehicle since you can jettison it; on a car it’s not so easy. The liquid fuel rocket has its own challenges since it works by mixing two highly flammable liquids together if either of those get loose “you’ve got a potential explosion in the making,” says driver Andy Green. Enter Daniel Jubb and hB hybrid rocket that he would develop with Computational Fluid Dynamics a world first so that he could gauge how the solid
fuel burned and shape it to create maximum thrust.
“We’re using a combination of technologies,” says Green. “We’ve got solid fuel in the four-metre tube. The fuel’s called hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), which is basically rubber it’s like aircraff tyre rubber. It’s not explosive, it’s barely flammable. However, heat it up to 600 centigrade with pure oxygen and it burns excellently.”
A tank of concentrated hydrogen peroxide (HIP) is forced through a silver catalyst pack, which decomposes it into steam and oxygen at 600 centigrade, igniting the fuel. It’s not without its problems, though.
“With HIP” says Jubb, “you can handle it like water. You mgt start off really paranoid, but then you know you can stick it in a cup, you can pour it. So you gradually become more complacent… and then it bites your head off. It’s all about maintaining paranoia.” This aside, if there is a problem with the rocket the flow of HIP can be shut off and the rocket stopped. The rocket, which was two sets of bast doors away
from the 400-strong crowd at Newquay Cornwall Airport was merely a step towards the full-size version that will be used in tests next year and the proper run in 2014. The rocket, which had oxidiser pumped in at 820psi rather than the 2014 level of 1100psi, fired for seven seconds it will need to run for 20 seconds come the actual run. On October 3 it was the loudest man-made noise in the world.
1) Each wheel will be stamped out by a 30,000 tonne forge and
will weigh 90kg. 2) At 1000mph the aluminium wheels will rotate at 10,200rpm. An Fl car’s wheels at Monza only reach 2600rpm. This will create 50,000g at the rims. El,
1) Bloodhound will accelerate to 1000mph and back down to Omph over 12 miles in two minutes.
2) At full speed Bloodhound will cover 4.5 football pitches, laid end to end, per second.
1) One option was Vemeuk Pan in South Africa. When Andy Green visited it in 2009 he could still see the track left by Malcolm Campbell in 1929 when he achieved a mean speed of 218.45mph.
2) The decision was made to use Hakskeen Pan in South Africa. 317 volunteers have since cleared 6000 tonnes of rocks from a 24.1 million square metre area. The same as clearing a two-lane road from London to Moscow.
1) Over 5300 schools, colleges and universities have teamed up with Bloodhound in four years.
2) In 2012 alone 55,000 pupils have engaged with the project.
Key to the Bloodhound project is the feedback it is giving to schools all over the world. Indeed, if it weren’t for this, Richard Noble never would have gone ahead with it. In 2006 he met with Lord Drayson and asked for an engine from the Ministry of Defence. They didn’t get that, but Drayson told them how much the MoD was struggling to recruit young engineers.
“The reason for this,” said Noble, “was that back in the 1960s we had a fantastic aerospace industry that created these wonderful aeroplanes the Concorde, the BAC TSR-2, the Vulcan bomber. AM these panes were flying over schools and inspiring the kids. That stimulated a large number of engineers and scientists. What Lord Drayson wanted us to do was to create a project that we could run through the schools and inspire kids to get into engineering. That’s what we’ve done.
“When we run the car we’ll be downloading 500 channels of information, and over in South Africa five 60m-hgh radio masts have been put up in order to share those with the world.”
“The reaction to the Bloodhound’s education programme has been unprecedented and, because the content is so good, schools are now paying for it meaning that the education side of the project is financially self-sufficient.” At the time of writing the entire Bloodhound project had cost £8.5 million, all sourced through sponsorship and donations.
The steady and smooth burning of the rocket in the test is thanks to the extensive CFD work of Daniel Jubb. It mapped the burning fuel grain in the rocket chamber mathematically so that perfect mach diamonds were produced in the rocket plume.
Clockwise from top right: Daniel Jubb checks the HIP tank; Cosworth engineers try to keep the Fl engine warm; the HIP tank was under half full for the test; concrete blocks protect everything in front of the rocket; HQ for the firing
THE NEXT TWO YEARS
The design has been signed off, the chassis is being built and the jet engine has been modified so that there isn’t any oil surge at 3g deceleration — something the Eurojet engine doesn’t usually have to contend with. However, there is still a very long way to go. As Noble says “if you see a finished car, the reality is that you’re only halfway there”. The big challenges over the next two years are packaging all the components in the signed-off aerodynard shape and making sure that the rocket will work.
Judging by the progress made so far you wouldn’t bet against the Bloodhound team overcoming these final obstacles in their pursuit of 1000mph.
OTHER CHALLE GERS
Thanks to Thrust 2 and Thrust SSC Britain has held onto the Land Speed Record for 28 years.There have been challengers in that time, but none have surpassed Richard Noble’s efforts. These are the current challengers to Bloodhound SSC.
THE NORTH AMERICAN EAGLE The team behind this ‘car’ has bought an ex-NASA F-104 Starfighter jet, chopped the wings off and added wheels.
AUSSIE INVADER SR
Rosco McGlashan is an avid LSR hunter and is powering his latest car with a rocket. He’s also aiming for 1000mph.
Steve Fossett was well on the way to doing a LSR attempt when he tragically went missing in 2007. His ‘Sonic Arrow’ is currently for sale.
This is the first LSR challenger from New Zealand and it will use a jet as well as two rockets. Its attempt is scheduled for 2015.
THE SONIC WIND LSRV
American Waldo Stakes has bought plenty of ex-NASA components in order to build a 1000mph rocket car. The project is 40 per cent complete.
THE BULLET PROJECT
It’s Australian and it’s using a rocket to aim for 1000mph. That’s the limit to everyone’s knowledge of ‘The Bullet’ for the time being.
The five-times LSR holder is supporting a new American project that will run in 2013. It’s the biggest ‘unknown’ of all of the challengers.