Bloodhound SSC: the 1000mph Car
One thousand miles per hour. On land. In a car.
That’s the goal of Richard Noble and Andy Green, who have each driven record-breaking cars before. Noble’s record of 633mph was set in 1983, while Green’s record of 763mph came 14 years later. Now, at the instigation of Britain’s Ministry of Science, engineers are preparing to go much faster. They hope to finish building the Bloodhound SSC by the end of 2012, and begin testing in 2013.
When compared to the speeds that space vehicles reach, 1000mph doesn’t seem so fast. But there are a number of reasons such a land speed has never even been attempted before.
- Test location
Fighter jets are designed to fly at such speeds – but as they fly far above the ground, there is less air to push against. So the Bloodhound has not one but three engines: a jet for initial acceleration, a rocket to get to 1000mph, and an internal combustion engine to run the pump that will supply the rocket with its oxygen supply.
The shape is important, too. The car needs to slip through the air as smoothly as possible, of course. But at the same time, the car needs ‘control surfaces’—the various tails and fins that will help keep the car going in a straight line along the ground. Race cars need a large amount of down force to keep the tires in contact with their race track. The Bloodhound, however, will not be turning, and runs the risk of digging itself into the desert surface if there is too much downforce. So its fins are minimal.
The materials used to build the car depend heavily on rocket science. Everything needs to be as strong, but as lightweight, as possible. This generally means making compromises between the two.
Finally, the team needed to choose a suitable test location. Deserts offer the most open space, without human, animal or plant habitation, but not all deserts have the flat, hard, rock-free surface that the vehicle requires. South Africa’s Hakseen Pan was chosen for the test.
However, the effort to reach 1000mph is not so that Mr. Green can have a new record, nor is its purpose to make money for the sponsors. Instead, this is billed as a challenge to the world’s systems of education. A significant part of Mr. Noble’s role in the project is the publicity, to make sure that as many of the world’s schoolchildren are aware of, and inspired by, the project.
The whole world will be watching the Bloodhound SSC in the next two years.
Writing about various car topics John enjoys proviing informative articles that highlight new and upcoming trends in the automotive industry, John is a regular contributor to the Hertz Rent 2buy website.