Have you heard of the Bloodhound Supersonic Car? A hand-picked team of British engineers are bringing this car to life to not only beat the current world record for speed (763 mph), but to surpass 1,000 mph (1,609 km/h)! How fast is 1,000 mph? A car that travels 1,000 mph will:
- Move faster than a bullet fired from a Magnum 357.
- Complete a mile in 3.6 seconds.
- Travel its own car length (13.5 meters; just over 44 feet) in 3/100ths of a second.
- Equal Mach 1.4.
- Faster than the speed of sound (Mach 1).
The project began in 2008 and is scheduled to attempt the speed feat in summer of 2016 in a South African desert. The driver will be British Royal Air Force fighter pilot Andy Green, who was the driver of the car that holds the current world speed record, set in 1997, the Thrust SSC. Many of the same engineers from that team are back to build the Bloodhound SSC.
The best part about this project is that it’s largely being done to build excitement and interest to inspire the next generation of engineers by overcoming the impossible. It’s the largest STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program in the world. They are sharing their progress on Facebook and Twitter and plan to live stream their record attempt. They even have 500 sensors throughout the car monitoring temperatures, performance and Andy Green’s heart rate that can be viewed on mobile device apps.
As you can imagine, building what is now a 7.5-ton car with aircraft characteristics that can reach 1,000 mph offers many opportunities for unique and innovative engineering. Here are the seven biggest and most interesting engineering challenges that are being solved as they build and test the car.
1. The Engineers Needed the “Best of Technologies” for the Design
When deciding what software they wanted to use for the project design, they reached out to Siemens PLM Software who granted them access to their NX™ software. The Bloodhound SSC designers were experienced with NX as were the senior designers they hired. Siemens also offered support from their software experts.
The Bloodhound team considers NX to be the key to the whole project as they use it for design and analytics. The concept design and Master CAD model were completed with NX, and the software is now being used for detailed design of all the car’s parts.
2. The Bloodhound SSC is Being Built to Aircraft Standards
While technically a car, the Bloodhound is being built to aircraft standards. This makes sense given that the car will be propelled by one Rolls-Royce EJ100 jet engine (the same found in Eurofighter Typhoon fighter planes), as well as three rocket motors by NAMMO. Mark Chapman, Bloodhound’s chief engineer, has previously worked for Boeing and British Aerospace and helped design the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and McLaren Formula 1. The team even had uniformed Royal Air Force technicians assigned to work on the project.
3. The Custom-Built Cockpit Addresses Many Safety Challenges
To keep Green as safe as possible while attempting this feat, the cockpit was specially designed with many features.
- The custom-made acrylic windscreen at two inches thick is thicker than a fighter jet. It’s able to withstand a 2.2 lb. hit up to 900 mph.
- To keep supersonic air from reaching the engine, the space above the cockpit is designed to create shockwaves. This will slow the air down to 600 mph. The byproduct of this safety feature is that it will be very loud in the cockpit.
- Special latches for the hatch that can withstand 2.5 kN (.25 tons) of force were created to keep the hatch from getting sucked into the engine.
- Because there will be a number of gauges along the dashboard tracking everything from air pressure to Green’s heart rate, the steering wheel has control buttons designed into it – front buttons control the airbrakes, parachute and emcom radio; triggers on the back prime and fire the rockets – to keep Green from getting distracted.
- A fire suppression system was designed to activate if sensors detect a problem or if there is an accident.
4. Strong Wheels Need to Withstand Forces at 1,000 MPH
The wheels provided the biggest challenge as they needed a solution that was strong enough to withstand the forces that come at the speed they are attempting to reach. The team is using aluminum wheels that are bare metal with no rubber. As the car reaches 400 mph, the wheels will barely be touching the ground as it will skim over the desert surface where they’ll be making their attempt. The huge back fin will keep the car stabilized.
5. Keeping the Car Grounded
In analyzing the initial design of the car, the team discovered that it generated seven tons of lift. Because the car itself is only 7.5 tons, this could have caused the car to take off. They redesigned the nose section to be flatter and constructed it from carbon fiber. This reduced the amount of lift generated to only one ton, which was spread along the entire length of the car.
6. From 1,000 MPH to a Standstill in 65 Seconds
Imagine driving in your family car and hitting a wall at 30 mph. This is the force that Green will experience for over a minute as the car decelerates once it hits 1,000 mph. The braking system will have it at a standstill in 65 seconds.
Here’s a quick rundown of the breaking process:
- The first 200 mph will be slowed by drag as the engines are shut off. This causes 3Gs of wind resistance (again, the equivalent of hitting a wall at 30 mph).
- Once below 800 mph, two air brakes pop out of the car at 60-degree angles. This provides the bulk of the braking.
- After reaching 250 mph, the wheel brakes can be safely applied.
- If any of these braking methods fail, there are two parachutes on board that can bring the car to a stop.
7. If 1,000 MPH is Reached, That Record Will Be Hard to Break
The Bloodhound team is confident that if they are able to reach their goal of 1,000 mph, that record would stand for a long time. However, the issue wouldn’t be in reaching a faster speed, it would be in safely slowing back down. Major improvements in breaking, as well as a large enough stretch of a suitable surface would be needed.
Are you excited to see them attempt the world record? Do you think they will hit 1,000 mph? Why or why not? Tell us in the comments below.
Image Source: Via Flock and Siemens