I was very fortunate last week to be able to see the Bloodhound SSC (Super-Sonic Car) make its world debut in London. By pure chance I had the afternoon off work for something else later in the evening, and happened to hear about the two-day event that was happening in the East Wintergarden venue in Canary Wharf. So, with my last-minute ticket in hand, I headed over to check it out… [I had to work, on the other hand, so couldn’t go. Pity. Fortunately there were about 300 photos of cars for me to look at… However, they actually turned out to be fairly amazing, so do keep reading even if you’re not an engineering fan!]
For those who haven’t heard of it before, the Bloodhound SSC is a British engineering project to break the land speed record (which is already held by the same team, headed by Richard Noble), with the ultimate aim being to travel at over 1,000mph. The car being unveiled today is the “product of eight years of research, design and manufacturing, involving over 350 companies and universities”. Jaguar are one of the key sponsors, and have provided many vehicles for research: the car below was used to test the use of parachutes as a braking system, a method that was eventually abandoned in favour of air brakes.
But I’m teasing you – it’s time I actually showed you pictures of the beast itself! [I can hardly wait.] And here she is:
The car will get going with an EJ200 jet engine, the power behind the Eurofighter Typhoon jets, which provides 88,250N (over 20,000lb) of thrust, totalling 67,500 horsepower. But that’s just for starters. When the time is right, the driver/pilot will trigger the ignition of not one, but three hybrid rockets from Nammo, who are using the project as an excellent chance to test some rocket technology which will then be used for space at a later date. These rockets will add another 121,750N (around 27,000lb) of thrust, combining to a cool 212,000N (over 47,000lb) and a whopping 135,000 horsepower. Stats aside, this thing is insane.
The jet engine will sit in the larger gap you can see at the top of the car, and the rockets will slot into the circle at the bottom. At the end of each run, they’ll be swapped out for a new set.
You might wonder why there are two different types of wheel – the rubber tyres will be used for the test runs at Newquay Airport in Cornwall later this year, whereas the aluminium ones will be used in the real attempts across the desert.
The car does have a normal engine as well, but it doesn’t connect to the wheels; this 5.0 litre V8 supercharged engine lifted from the Jaguar F-Type R Coupe exists solely to pump HTP propellant into the rockets.
The tail-fin is necessary to help control the direction of the car as it hits such speeds – computer-controlled winglets attached to the fin and the front of the car will produce the downforce required to keep it on the ground.
Wing Commander Andy Green, the current land speed record holder, will be taking the wheel again in Bloodhound SSC, aiming to beat his previous record of 763mph in ThrustSSC. The cockpit and steering wheel are moulded perfectly to his body shape, so he’ll have to be careful what he eats over the next few years! During the attempt he will experience g-forces of 2g at full-speed, and up to 3g when slowing down again.
Next year, the car will be taken to the Hakskeen Pan track in South Africa, a dried-up lake in the desert where a team of 315 people have cleared 15,800 tonnes of rock and stone (anything bigger than 1cm in diameter had to be removed) from 24 million m2 (!!) of desert to create a 19km road for the record attempt. An initial date of 15th October 2016 has been set for the first record attempt, where they will attempt to break the existing record by going over 800mph. Then the team will return in 2017 to hopefully smash that again with their goal of over 1,000mph.
It’s a fantastic looking machine and the engineering behind it is really interesting – one of the great parts of the project is the outreach that the team have been doing, visiting schools to get kids excited about STEM subjects, and helping them to build their own rocket cars, one of which apparently went at over 500mph!! I can’t wait to see the car in action for real – here’s hoping it all goes well and the British team manage to keep their record for many years to come!