BLOODHOUND SSC TEAM PLANS TO PUT FOOT DOWN AND GO FOR IT, WRITES COLIN SMITH
Eyes fixed on supersonic record A Land Speed Record project that had gone quiet during recent months now looks set to make some big noise — actually a sonic boom — next year.
The British team preparing Bloodhound SSC (Supersonic Car) has announced a revised time-line leading to its first campaign in October 2017.
With further funding now secured, Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new record of 800mph next year, bettering the current record of 763.035mph (1277.98km/h) set in October 1997 by Andy Green, driving the Thrust SSC.
The Bloodhound programme had been in a holding pattern for the first half of 2016 but the recent signing of major deals means the project has sufficient funding pledged to complete the car and begin the countdown to high-speed testing at the Hakskeen Pan, Northern Cape, South Africa in mid-2017.
The team is keeping the identity of the new commercial partners under wraps for the meantime, but the funding has allowed engineers to return to the project — having taken short-term contracts elsewhere — and begin work on making the supersonic challenger race-ready.
‘‘This is probably the biggest moment in the project’s history,’’ project director Richard Noble said. ‘‘Before we could only see financially a few months ahead but now we can put our foot down and really go for it.
Little had been heard from the Bloodhound SSC team since September last year when the car was shown off in public in a trial build state — assembled without fluids to check the fit of over 3500 bespoke components.
Now there is a clear programme for the next 15 months with attempts to push the record beyond 800mph in October 2017 before attempting 1000mph (1600km/h) runs in 2018.
The next phase of the project is to disassemble the 13.5-metre long. 6.4-tonne streamliner while documenting the process in fine detail, to create the Bloodhound User Manual. An illustrated guide to the car is vital as engineers may be working on the world’s most complex racing car, at 2am, in the Kalahari desert.
Once reassembled, the next phase of the programme is ‘‘tie-down’’ testing for its Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine (from a Eurofighter Typhoon) and Nammo hybrid rocket system at the Newquay Aerohub in Cornwall.
The Nammo rocket is a new design and further work is required before engineers sign it off for use in the car.
The first outing for Bloodhound SSC under its own power is scheduled in June 2017 at Newquay, running at speeds up to 350km/h on the Aerohub runway. This shakedown test will also allow the team to practise live-streaming data and imagery from the car — a key aspect of Bloodhound’s mission to share the adventure with a global audience.
By this time the team’s Rapid Response and Turnaround Crews will have done extensive training ready to support high-speed running in South Africa.
This will include rehearsing the all-important turnaround, an intense 40-minute period between timed runs, during which time the car will be checked, refuelled and made ready for the return leg.
This “race within a race” to complete two runs in opposite directions within 60 minutes is crucial to setting a record. In 1997 a delay of just a few seconds cost the Thrust SSC team the top prize during an early record attempt.
Bloodhound SSC will then be loaded on to a CargoLogicAir Boeing 747 to be airlifted to Upington, South Africa. It will be transported by road to the team’s desert base at Hakskeen Pan, where 16 container-loads of equipment will have been shipped in advance to build a self-contained village complete with workshop and TV studios.
As well as designing and building a car to challenge for the land speed record, a vital part of the Bloodhound SSC project was searching the globe for a suitable location for record attempts.
A course at least 19km long and 3km wide — and also perfectly flat — is required. The Hakskeen Pan, an alkali playa (essentially a dried-up lake bed) in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province was selected. A team of 317 members of the local community were employed to clear the desert. They have shifted 16,000 tonnes of stones by hand, from an area of 22 millionsq m, the equivalent of clearing a two-lane road from Bristol to Moscow.
To attack the land speed record Bloodhound SSC makes use of three power plants.