Speed Freaks - About the Bloodhound SSC Project
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EPSRC is a founding sponsor in this engineering adventure for the 21st century
By October 2011 Richard Noble and the Bloodhound team hope to have completed an epic and iconic journey.
And if all goes to plan they will have inspired a generation of British engineers capable of tackling the global challenges of the 21st century.
The plan is simple – design and build a car capable of 1,000mph then, at a remote desert location, make an assault on the World Land Speed Record.
The assault, in Richard Noble's own words, will go something like this:
We will accelerate from zero to 300mph by mile four, so really gentle acceleration. Then we bring in the afterburner and the rocket, accelerate at over 3G, that's acceleration at over 70mph per second, up through the measured mile at 1,000mph – taking about 3.6 seconds. We then have aerodynamic drag that slows us down, parachutes and finally wheel brakes. We then turn it around, refuel it and send it back to get through the measured mile again before one hour is up.
The four year Bloodhound project aims to push the world land speed record past the 1,000mph barrier. It was born after the present Science Minister Lord Drayson, then at the Ministry of Defence, decided an iconic engineering feat was needed to inspire future generations.
The man he turned to was Richard Noble, current holder of the world land speed record with the Thrust SSC team – the first car to break the sound barrier.
EPSRC, a founder sponsor of the project, is funding the vital aerodynamic research being carried out at Swansea University.
Drayson's vision was, says Noble, to recreate the inspirational British engineering projects of the 20th Century such as Concorde and Spitfire – and in doing so ignite young people’s passion for the subject.
Our objective is to create a national surge in the popularity of science and engineering. We will have failed if we get 1,000mph and don’t get the national surge in science and engineering.
The second is to create an iconic project that requires excellent research and technology while providing the means for students to join in the adventure.
A personal journey
Noble knows from experience that the land speed record generates huge global interest and intensely loyal followers.
He also knows the world speed record's capability to inspire:
I was a kid of six-years-old, not really knowing where my life and future lay, and my father was in the Army and we were stationed in Inverness. One day we went for a drive around the north shore of Loch Ness in the family car and we saw John Cobb's jet boat Crusader.
This is an iconic project and an iconic vehicle the likes of which we have never seen before.
He was going for the world water speed record. I saw this fantastic silver and red thing and I thought 'wow', and that was it. Something happened and I couldn’t get rid of the bug. And it lives up to it. It's probably the best thing you can do on God's earth that's legal I guess.
Noble first broke the record in 1983 behind the wheel of Thrust II. In 1997, the Thrust SSC team, headed by Noble and driver Andy Green, pushed that record through the sound barrier to 763mph.
Building a bloodhound
But Bloodhound is a new dawn and a new car. Unlike Thrust SSC it will be powered by a combination of a single jet and a rocket and it will need to generate upwards of 47,000lbs thrust if it is to achieve 1,000mph.
The body is part monocoque carbon fibre, part aluminium space frame. The wheels are solid titanium with twin titanium 'keels' for traction, no tires.
One part of the car does bear a closer resemblance to your everyday motor though. Tucked behind the driver is an 800bhp V12 race engine – but on Bloodhound it just powers the fuel pump.
This is an iconic project and an iconic vehicle the likes of which we have never seen before, says Noble.
It requires very, very advanced technologies, there are very few aircraft that can go this fast.
The next stage
But he admits that although the design has taken shape – the journey has only just begun. The team aims to build the car by September 2009 before attempting 800mph. A 900mph attempt will follow a year later, followed, if all goes to plan, by the magic 1,000mph in 2011.
All the research that has gone on in the last year is predictive figures, for instance all the work at Swansea University, that's an enormous amount of work and commitment from the team. They’re creating predictive data and we design to that aerodynamic data which is crucial.
Noble knows from his own experience that the land speed record’s appeal is enduring, but why?
You really are pushing things to the absolute limit and of course everyone loves power, speed, cars and engineering. There is a great love of that. It's open technology access, a real challenge and real drama because you're doing something that has never been done before.
Then he adds:
It's also perceived as being very dangerous and so generates huge global interest.