Earlier this week, the Bloodhound SSC project to break the Land Speed Record went into administration. It\’s not the end of the road \– as you can read here, the team is hoping to find a major investor to put up to \£25 million (Rs 243 crore) into the project, the goal being to take the Land Speed Record beyond 1,600kph.We\’ve been following the project since it was first announced almost ten years ago, and our involvement has included not only getting to know the team, but, slightly unbelieveably, helping to build the car, visiting Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, trying to understand the engineering and so on. We don\’t just think Bloodhound is cool, we think it\’s important. Here\’s why.Because the numbers are ridiculousAll of the numbers. Not just the 1.5g acceleration, or the 120,000bhp total power output. Personal favourite? The rocket is a hybrid which means it uses both solid and liquid fuels. The solid is rubber and already in the rocket, the liquid is HTP (High Test Peroxide) that needs to be pumped into the rocket very fast. Which requires a big pump. Initial plans had a Cosworth Formula One engine performing this role. Then a supercharged Jaguar V8. Now most likely it\’ll be an electric motor. The parameters haven\’t changed though \– it\’ll need to pump 800 litres of fuel into the rocket in 17 seconds. At that rate, you\’d fill your car in a second. Oh, and at 1,600kph, Bloodhound outruns the bullet from a magnum .357. It\’ll also have set an airspeed record for low flying aircraft\…
It uses rockets\\!And not just any rocket engine but the Nammo Nucleus, which was recently successfully tested and will also be used by the European Space Agency. In testing last month it reached 107.4km of altitude in three minutes. Should be just the ticket for giving an eight-tonne record car a healthy extra shove when it\’s lit at 480kph.It\’s actually moved under its own steam alreadyThis time last year Bloodhound ran in anger for the first time at Newquay Airport in Cornwall. In fact it ran like a dream with no hiccups at all, the only difficulty the response of the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine. After throttling back, fuel is still injected for a second or two, so even when backing off at 196kph, Bloodhound was still cresting 320kph before it began to slow.And it really wasn\’t slowWhen the Bloodhound designers and engineers first did the computer predictions for how fast Bloodhound would accelerate, they thought the 7,750kg machine would take around 15secs to reach 160kph. About hot hatch speed. This was because it was impossible to model how soon the EJ200 jet engine would be able to ingest enough air to run the afterburner, the intake having been optimised for 1,280kph. At Newquay, they had the opportunity to find out for real \– and the results were astonishing. From a standing start, Bloodhound SSC hit 96kph in 3.50secs, 160kph in 4.73secs and 240kph in 6.3secs and 320ph in 7.62secs. It was piling on 48kph every second, pulling a near constant 5g of acceleration. It\’s not a land speed car so much as a dragster. And the team believe it\’ll maintain close to that level of thrust all the way to 1,600kph.
The cockpit protection was ballistics testedDriver Andy Green sits deep within a carbon fibre tub of great thickness and strength. However, if a stone should be flicked up by one the wheels that wouldn\’t be enough to stop it, as it would likely be travelling faster than a bullet. So flanking the tub is a Kevlar ballistics shield panel. These had to be tested. A 9mm bullet didn\’t make a dent. Even a rocket-propelled weighted dart didn\’t make it through. We\’d assume this made Andy Green feel quite a bit safer. Not that a man prepared to drive at 1,600kph is the sort to get put off by stone chips.Because it\’s about getting kids excited about scienceA key part of Bloodhound\’s remit was the knock-on effects of breaking the Land Speed Record, specifically getting kids excited about pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths). So far the outreach campaign which has included Bloodhound ambassadors visiting schools, running projects to build and race small rocket cars and visit Bloodhound headquarters in Bristol, has reached over two million school children.Because we built itThis probably isn\’t what any potential investors want to discover, but yes, Charlie Turner and I spent a day building Bloodhound. This was in the key construction phase and when we arrived at their Bristol premises Charlie was given an orbital sander so he could polish the titanium upper bodywork, while I was allowed to help attach some of the 192 pressure sensors sited around the car, attach several of the 12,000 rivets that hold it together and use an endoscope to check everything was aligned properly.
And delivered bits of itBack in 2013, we were tasked with delivering the very first aluminium wheel block from the Fuchs foundry in Germany, to Castle Engineering in Glasgow. Here, the 220kg cheese wheel would be machined into something able to cope with the rotating forces at 10,200rpm and tolerating 50,000g at the rim. The fact Bloodhound isn\’t short one wheel means we didn\’t fail.Because the track is ready and waitingHakskeen Pan is in the Northern Cape of South Africa. The Bloodhound team identified it years ago as the ideal place for record runs due to its hard, level surface. Just one problem\: it was covered in stones. 300 people were recruited locally and they spent three years clearing it of debris \– a 20km length of the Pan 1500 metres wide. It\’s there, it\’s ready, we\’ve been, and they\’ve even tested communications equipment so they can get live feeds from the car and broadcast them around the world live. Imagine\: when Andy Green does finally hit the throttle, you\’ll be able to watch live onboard footage as he aims for 1,600kph.