Breaking records and pushing boundaries
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No its…, well actually its a combination of car, rocket and fighter aircraft. The SSC team, led by Richard Noble, are endeavouring to design, build and then run the car at speeds of 1000 mph, which is 1.4 times faster than the speed of sound. This is not entirely new territory for the team as their earlier vehicle, the SSC Thrust, was the first car to break the sound barrier. The driver, or is it pilot, will be the same for the SSC Bloodhound, RAF pilot Andy Green.
The earlier car ‘merely’ used two jet engines from an F4 Phantom fighter which were sufficient to ease it past the sound barrier, at an average speed over a standing mile of 1,228 km/h (763 mph). In order to reach the target of 1000 mph the new car has to be much sleeker, offering a smaller profile. This rules out the two, side-by-side, engines used the last time. The SSC team are using a single jet engine, from the Eurofighter Typhoon. It will provide 89kN (20,000lb) of thrust, but early calculation showed this would be insufficient to reach the target speed. The additional thrust will come from a new hybrid solid fuel, liquid oxidiser rocket boasting 111kN (25,000lb) of thrust, and placed above and in-line with the jet engine. Many aspects of the design push the boundaries of engineering, aerodynamics and materials science.
Engineers from Swansea University modelled this configuration using supercomputers, and the results were sufficiently positive for construction to begin in Bristol. The team then turned their attention to finding a suitable location, using data from the Space Shuttle and images from Google Earth. Andy Green inspected a short list of possibilities, and the final choice emerged as Hakskeen Pan, Northern Cape province, South Africa. It offers a 2 mile-long track across a perfectly flat dried-up lake bed. The team hopes to start trial runs in 2011. A video is available from the Vodpod link on this page.