Richard Noble’s 1000mph Bloodhound project is on course for a 2011 record run, with a radical redesign, a new HQ, and a location for the supersonic record attempt.
Bloodhound aims to smash the current 763mph Land Speed Record, set by Andy Green in Noble’s previous device, ThrustSSC, before hitting four figures on four wheels. Since the mock-up of the twin-engined device was displayed, Bloodhound’s shape has changed. Instead of the ‘rocket over jet’ form, with a swooping air intake feeding a low-set engine, an even larger rocket motor now sits between the wheels with the Eurojet EJ200 Typhoon fighter jet engine above.
Wing Commander Green, who will pilot the seven-ton Bloodhound, explains that they found they needed more power, but that firing a high-mounted 27,500lb-thrust rocket would pitch the car nose-down. “At 700mph that would make my job a bit harder,” Green says cheerfully. “But the new layout only raises the centre of gravity by three or four centimetres, which we compensate by increasing the track a little. Also the fin is now attached to the chassis, not to the rocket, so inserting the refuel pack is faster.” In October the team successfully tested the rocket, which at 18in diameter is the biggest hybrid motor ever designed in Britain. Bloodhound’s ‘Configuration 10’ is now final.
Another major question – where to find 10 completely flat miles for the record attempt – has also been solved. Using satellite imagery and Google Earth, the team homed in on Hakskeen Pan, a dried-up lake bed in South Africa’s Northern Cape. Previously ruled out because it is bisected by a dirt track, the Pan now has a tarred road round the end of it, making the old route redundant, and the local government has pledged to remove the track.
“It’s perfect,” says Green, who visited most of the sites during holidays from his RAF duties. “It has a hard surface, great access and ideal weather. The Cape government is bending over backwards to help, and there’s a strong educational link. South Africa wants to expand its technical skills, and we’re part of that.”
The Pan is also at the perfect altitude – 2600ft. “With the heat that gives us a ‘density altitude’ of 5000ft,” says Green, “which postpones trans-sonic drag.” But he adds that they may have to supercharge the 800bhp MCT V12 which pumps oxidant to the rocket to compensate for the thin air.
The 42ft needle-nosed machine will be developed and assembled in a dedicated technical centre in Bristol’s dockland, next door to the SS Great Britain and near the University of Western England, where the team has been based until now. Boosting the image of engineering as a career is a core element, and visitors will have constant access to the build, expected to take 18 months. Initial testing on rubber tyres will take place in the UK before incremental runs at the Pan.
Noble estimates he needs £10 million to break 1000mph, but says that despite the downturn sponsors are keen thanks to the education element. So far 33 universities, 98 colleges and 10 per cent of Britain’s schools have involved themselves with Bloodhound. Research already shows a mini ‘Apollo effect’, as seen in the United States during the moon landings, when engineering graduate figures soared.
“That’s our core aim,” says Green. “It almost doesn’t matter how fast we go. Even if we don’t hit 1000mph but still get students excited about engineering, we’ll see that as a success.”
A full-sized Bloodhound mock-up goes on display at Autosport International on January 14-17.