Engineering the Bloodhound SSC

The British speed team, led by Richard Noble, that brought us the Thrust SSC (SuperSonic Car) and captured the world land speed record of 763 mph (1,228 km/h or Mach 1) in 1997 is out to go even faster with their new car, called Bloodhound SSC. Their objective is to raise the record to 1,000 mph (1,609 km/h or Mach 1.31), a 31% improvement over their previous mark.

In the design of the Bloodhound SSC there is no room for form over function - everything has a purpose and is optimized for speed. The power plant and aerodynamics of the car are the two primary challenges that faced designers.

3 Engines

The current Bloodhound SSC concept design incorporates 3 engines:

  • A jet (the EJ-200 from the Eurofighter Typhoon) to accelerate the car from rest up to 300 mph
  • A hybrid solid rocket for acceleration from 300 mph to record speed
  • A 12-cylinder 800 bhp engine to power hydraulics and to pump oxidizer to the rocket

The idea of using a two-component thrust system (the jet, boosted further by the rocket) is analogous to the system used by the Lockheed NF-104A for astronaut training.

Aerodynamics

The drag and stability of the Bloodhound SSC at supersonic speeds poses engineering challenges. The aerodynamic analysis is the responsibility of a team led by Professor Oubay Hassan, using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) techniques pioneered by Professors Ken Morgan and Nigel Weatherill, all at Swansea University, Wales. For accurate results the analysis needs to account for the close proximity of the car to the ground. Supersonic wind tunnels could match the air speed conditions to analyze a scale model of the car, but couldn't mimic the associated supersonic moving ground. CFD has no such constraints and can model the full size car with a supersonic moving ground. A final reality check for the car design will likely involve a physical scale model mounted to a rocket sled, but the fewer of those risky tests the better.

Record Attempt

There's no set date (2011 at the earliest) or location for the record attempt, but the credentials of the team and engineers behind the Bloodhound SSC are such that I wouldn't bet against them.

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Richard Noble Interview

Check out the Autosport question and answer session with Richard Noble, the leader of the Bloodhound SSC project.

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