The science behind Bloodhound

Supplementary content information

An update on bloodhound's recent progress and a look at the science behind the 1000mph car.

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Andy Green [AG] – Bloodhound SSC Pilot

This is a real thrill for us today because a year ago we launched this project with the concept of a 1,000mph car inspiring kids, but we had a lot of pieces missing. With the car last year we had a concept that the research said could do 1,000mph, it was technically possible. In the last year / 13 months we’ve moved from could to a design that we’ve got a lot of evidence to say this car will do 1,000mph and it will stay on the ground.

[Sound of the Bloodhound racing at speed]

[AG]

A lot of people have commented on the potential risk of driving a car at 1,000mph. I don’t look at it like that. The only thing we need to achieve is to be able to keep all four wheels on the ground all the time. Given the sort of computing power we’ve got available with Intel as a sponsor, we’ve got more computing power than the met office working for us right now. With that kind of technology we can predict with incredible accuracy what is going to happen to the air flow all the way through the speed range. We’ll know that the wheels are going to stay on the ground and once we do it will be safe to do that.

I suspect that driving this car is going to be something of an extreme experience. The sheer physical demands of actually sitting just underneath the jet intake where it will be very, very noisy. A very small cockpit so it’s going to be very hot and of course we’re amplifying that effect by taking it to a desert and then the sheer physical g-loads of accelerating at up to 2.5g so 50mph per second of acceleration will pin me heavily back into the seat. That will last for about 45 seconds and at that point we will be doing 1,000mph. The measured mile will take 3.7 seconds at just over 1,000mph and at that point I shut down the jet and the rocket and then the drag of the car starts to slow it down at 3g.

If you can imagine driving a car at 60mph down the road and stopping dead in one second, that’s the sort of violence of deceleration it’s going to feel like. So I’m going to have my work cut out for that 100 seconds that it takes from stationary to 1,000mph back to stationery covering ten miles in 100 seconds, but I’m going to have to work quite hard during that ride.

[Sound of Bloodhound racing at speed]

Richard Nobel [RN] – Project Director

We’ve got four objectives really with all this. The first is to create a new generation of engineers. The second one is basically to provide a project that the students and the school kids can get into and really understand and really learn from. The third one is to get our 1,000mph record and the fourth is to generate a lot of publicity for our sponsors.

Ben Evans [BE] – Swansea University

So what sort of science are we using? It’s physics and its maths so we’re in the area of aerodynamics. What we are trying to do is understand aerodynamics using computational modelling, so we use big computers to solve the complicated equations that describe aerodynamics and using these big computers we can get numbers out that tell us at this speed these are the forces the car will experience.

John Piper – Engineering Director

We’ve a long process to go through. Before we go to South Africa and start testing there we’ve got testing to do in the UK on a runway which starts initially with commissioning the car in the work shop. We then take the car to an airfield and do tie down tests, so we tie the car to the ground just like aircraft and run the engines up and check that all of the systems are functioning and that we are in control of the car. Once we’ve established that the car’s good and we are in control and it’s performing how we expect then we all decamp to the desert in South Africa, start at the speed we finished at and carry on the development.

[BE]

Before running this car it has to be as good as it can possible be. But there are questions marks. What will the shock waves do to the desert floor? We don’t quite know the answer to that. What will be the influence of all the dust that will be kicked up into the flow and entrained into the flow? What’s the influence of that? We don’t really know the answer to that question yet so as we go we will be exploring and we will be answering some of these questions. What we’ve developed is a model that tries to understand how the dust that gets entrained into the flow will affect the vehicle. Now that has lots of spin-offs, for example aircraft landing on wet runways kick up a lot of spray into the aerodynamic flow around them, so we can apply this technology to that once we have finished working on Bloodhound. There are lots of interesting little things that could well spin-off into more real world applications.

[Sound of Bloodhound racing at speed]

[RN]

We have 160 companies on the programme that will grow to about 300 and all of them are involved in making bits and pieces for the car and all those parts arrive here and this is where we stick it all together. And then we’ve got to integrate the sponsors who are making the parts with the schools.

[BE]

Can Bloodhound SSC inspire the next generation of engineers? I think so absolutely and we are already seeing it. Part of the research funding that we get fromEPSRC is to go into schools and do public engagement work. You go into a school and you tell them about a supersonic car and you’ve got the kids engaged, your teaching them about science and engineering and they don’t even know it, so we are seeing it happen already and certainly once this vehicle is built and we run it on the desert that’s going to be such a spectacular event. It can’t fail to inspire kids.

[Sound of heartbeat and Bloodhound racing]