The $8 million Bloodhound SSC project is one of the most ambitious and treacherous challenges in the history of motoring. Ever since the Thrust SSC shattered the land speed record in 1997 no one has really attempted to beat its unreal top speed of just over 1220kmph.
But since 2008, the 70 member-strong Bloodhound SSC team is sniffing for glory and they aim at crossing the 1600mph mark, or a dizzying 570kmph more than the existing record.
The Bloodhound team has recently announced that the car will be ready for an 800mph (1288kmph) run next year while the full 1000mph or 1600kmph attempt will be made in 2016. Along with that the team also released a paper on some of the monumental challenges the vehicle will face at that speed, and what theyâ€™ve done to overcome it.
To cope with the forces, the 7.5-tonne Bloodhoundâ€™s design is one of the most comprehensive cohesions of F1, space and aeronautical technologies ever made. The design focuses not just on aerodynamic efficiency but also strength to withstand the shockwave generated when breaking the sound barrier. Rubber cannot cope with the speed so solid aluminum discs are employed, each weighing 90kg.
The air brakes have holes drilled in them so as to keep the vehicle steady. And they still manage to slow the vehicle down with a force of 3 Gs or the equivalent of being in a car that stops from 100kmph to 0 in one second dead â€“ for 20 seconds straight. Conventional brakes can only be used once the speed drops below 320kmph.
The 1600kmph car’s components
Body: The car is of hybrid construction with the forward F1-inspired half made of carbon fibre and the rear section is a metallic fabrication split along its centreline. The titanium upper chassis mounts the Eurojet EJ200, the intake duct and the fin, while the lower mounts the auxiliary power unit, the jet fuel tank and the rocket system. Rear subframe carries the suspension, rocket thrust ring and the parachute cans. A lot of components are made through 3D printers:
Fin: Gives the car straight-line stability.
Jet: The EJ200 turbofan is also used in the Eurofighter Typhoon airplane and will provide about half the thrust to the Bloodhound. The turbofan and the jet deliver the combined equivalent of 1,35,000PS.
Auxillary Power Unit: The auxiliary power unit provides essential hydraulic services to the car and drives the rocket oxidiser pump.
Rocket Power: In order to accelerate the car to 1600kmph, the Nammo hybrid rocket will provide a thrust of 123.75kN. This combined with the EJ200 will generate about 212kN â€” thatâ€™s eight times more power than all the cars on a Formula 1 starting grid combined.
Tank: A capsule-shaped steel tank holds high test peroxide (HTP) for the rocket. The Bloodhoundâ€™s rocket will use about 980 litres of the stuff in 20 seconds.
The men behind the 1600kmph car
The head of the insane Bloodhound SSC project is Richard Noble. And as Popular Mechanics puts it, “if anyone can lead a team of 70 engineers, aerodynamicists, fabricators, and one experienced driver to supersonic glory, Noble would be the man.”
Noble broke the land speed record on October 4, 1983, when he reached 633.47mph in the turbojet-powered Thrust 2. His record stood until September 25, 1997, when driver Andy Green piloted the Thrust SSC to 714.144mph (under Noble’s guidance), making it the first land vehicle to break the sound barrier. After breaking Noble’s record, Green bettered his own record when he drove the ThrustSSC to 763.035mph on October 15, 1997. Green, an RAF pilot, will be behind the wheel of the Bloodhound SSC when it bids for the 1000mph record.
The Bloodhound will run on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa, one of the few places on earth suitable for the run. The world waits with crossed fingers and bated breath.