Bloodhound SSC: First shakedown test planned in Cornwall
I first wrote about the Bloodhound SSC – Britain’s plan to smash the Land speed record – in 2015, but since then, there’s been nothing but delays. However, now it looks like the project is back on track. According to new reports, on October 26th he Bloodhound will use Cornwall Airport Newquay’s 1.7 mile-long runway for a 200 mph ‘low speed’ shakedown.
That’s not slow, but compared to the 1000 mph top-speed the Bloodhound is capable of, it’s only a warm up. As for the record breaking run? That’s expected to happen in South Africa, next year.
“The runway trials at Cornwall Airport Newquay will be the biggest milestone in the history of the project so far,” said Richard Noble, project director at Bloodhound SSC. “They will provide important data on the performance of the car and give us a first opportunity to rehearse the procedures we’ll use when we go record breaking.”
To read my original feature of about the Bloodhound SSC, keep reading.
Bloodhound SSC: A UK-built 1,000mph car will attempt to smash the land speed record
Next year, Wing Commander Andy Green will pull up to a 12km stretch of dried lakebed on the Hakskeen Pan of South Africa. After around eight years of development, he will begin his first attempt, accelerating to speeds of 850mph – and smashing his own land speed record in the process.
Green will be piloting the Bloodhound SSC, the fastest car ever made, and will have over 135,000 combined horsepower at his disposal. A culmination of years of work from the country’s leading figures in science, motorsport and technology, Green’s first run will be followed by an even faster attempt. Later in the year, the Bloodhound SSC project will race to achieve speeds of 1,000mph, and put the land speed record well out of reach.
Designed to be the fastest car on the planet, the Bloodhound SSC comes with some serious pedigree. A project headed by serial record-breaker Richard Noble – who also masterminded the Thrust 2 and Thrust SSC record holders – the Bloodhound SSC will be piloted by Andy Green, the first man to break the sound barrier on land with the Thrust SSC.
The record attempt
The Bloodhound is going to set two records, with the first a 850mph run in South Africa next year. Before that, the team will shake down the car’s systems in Newquay using refurbished aviation tyres, and attain a speed of 200mph.
If everything goes well, the Bloodhound will head to South Africa for a true test of its speed. Rubber wheels will be replaced for 1,000mph-worthy cast-aluminum ones, as the team first look to beat the existing land speed record of the Thrust SSC. If they’re successful, they’ll analyse the data captured in the record attempt, and perfect the car for a 1,000mph run later in the year.
To achieve a top speed of 1,000mph, the Bloodhound relies on a trinity of powerful engines, each with different duties. The workhorse of the Bloodhound is a EJ200, but the Bloodhound’s impressive top speed comes from a Nammo rocket cluster, helped by a Jaguar V8 engine.
Donated by the MoD, but originally destined for a Typhoon combat jet, the EJ200 is responsible for the initial phase of acceleration, and produces over 54,000hp.
Strapping a jet engine into a car comes with its own challenges, and Alphr talked Tony Dineen, engine manager of the EJ200, to find out more.
According to Dineen, one of the main challenges of the installing the jet engine was ensuring that it got the required amount of cooling: “The design team upstairs worked very closely with Rolls Royce so that you get the optimum airflow to the front of the EJ200,” he explained. “We’re trying to replicate as much as we can how the engine is installed into a Typhoon fighter, essentially tricking the engine then into thinking that it’s fitted to a Typhoon – and not a car.”
The EJ200 only represents the first stage of the Bloodhound’s power, and its main job is to get the Bloodhound at optimum speed for a larger Nammo hybrid rocket cluster.
Essentially sophisticated fireworks, the Nammos’ combined 81,000hp is derived from a controlled chemical reaction, meaning it has a limited operating window. To get to the highest speeds possible, Green must wait until the EJ200 achieves optimum velocity before engaging the Nammos. At the press of a button on the F1-like steering wheel, an ancillary 650hp Jaguar V8 engine also roars into life – but it’s only used to pump HTP fuel into the hybrid rockets, and bring on a possible top speed of 1,000mph.
With all engines running, the Bloodhound has a combined power figure of around 135,000hp.
Shaped more like a large pencil than a car, the Bloodhound’s form is the result of years of aerodynamic research. Every area of the car has been shaped for the best performance, and a number of other factors – including handling at supersonic and subsonic speeds – have been taken into account.
At 1,000mph, the weight of the car and the way it cuts through the air is vital. Built in Bristol, the Bloodhound uses much of the same materials as a Formula 1 car: “The external skin is a combination of titanium with carbon fibre,” explained Dineen. “The front is carbon fibre for its strength and ballistic capabilities.”
Although the Bloodhound and previous attempts may show the car going in a straight line, the reality is very different. Any vehicle aiming for the land speed record must be able to steer itself, and taming the car’s 135,000hp is critical to a successful record attempt.
Just as going over a speed bump is vastly different at 40mph or 10mph, every change of the Hakskeen Pan’s surface is multiplied at 1,000mph. As a result, Andy Green will have to make hundreds of minute connections as the Bloodhound begins its acceleration phase.
However, it’s not just the ground that can cause handling issues – even the air itself changes how the car drives. “As you are increasing in speed, you’re building up shockwaves in front of the car so you will have pressures acting on the car,” said Dineen. “When you brake the sound barrier so then the pressures will change the handling of the car as well. As Andy Green found when he did Thrust SSC, you’re fighting the car until around supersonic and then it seemed to smooth itself out when you went supersonic. They’ve taken that into account so that the handling when you go up to and beyond supersonic is a lot easier than the Thrust SSC Bloodhound.”
Of course, after the acceleration, which can produce up to 2G, the car must be stopped. At speeds of more than 1,000mph something more than brakes is needed. “You have air brakes that are just forward of the real wheels, so they will deploy once you get below 200mph,” said Dineen. “He’s then got a foot pedal for normal brakes on the front wheels.” The result? The Bloodhound can slow from 1,000mph to 0mph in 65 seconds, causing Green to experience three times his own body weight.