Aerodynamics Of A Supersonic Car - Can It Withstand 1,000 MPH?
April 12, 2014

Bloodhound SSC Team Reports On Aerodynamic Simulations

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

How will a supersonic car (SSC) capable of reaching speeds of 1,000mph cope with the aerodynamic characteristics of traveling that fast? The team developing one such vehicle addresses those issues in an upcoming edition of the Journal of Automobile Engineering.

In the paper, members of the Swansea University College of Engineering team working on the Bloodhound SSC discuss how simulations of the vehicle had demonstrated how it will cope with the supersonic rolling ground, rotating wheels and ensuing shock waves that occur in close proximity to the test track at the South African location where it is expected to conduct 800mph trials sometime next year.

The Bloodhound Project has a primary goal of designing and building a car capable of traveling 1,000mph (approximately Mach 1.3) during a 2016 attempt to set a new land-speed record. In order for a ground-based vehicle to reach those speeds, the team is looking to combine space, aeronautical and auto-racing engineering in what they dub “the most exciting and dynamic engineering challenge going on today.”

According to study authors Dr. Ben Evans and Chris Rose, there are significant challenges associated with the development of a land-based vehicle that can safely travel at supersonic speeds. Minimizing drag and vertical aerodynamic force control are particularly important to ensure that the record-setting attempt is safe.

“A series of unsteady simulations will also be carried out in order to determine the unsteady response of the vehicle, particularly in conditions such as deceleration with airbrakes deployed,” they wrote. “It is also evident that there are still questions to be answered regarding the accuracy of the model.”

For example, it remains unclear how the shockwaves will interact with the ground surface at the test location, and in particular whether or not they could cause the surface to break up. While they have chosen computational fluid dynamics (CFD) as the primary tool to guide the car’s aerodynamic design, damage to the surface would require them to refine the CFD model to go along with the vehicle’s testing.

Rose and Dr. Evans have been developing models of the aerodynamic flows that the Bloodhound SSC will likely experience. They report that those simulations “have already influenced significant design aspects” of the vehicle, including “the front wheel configuration, the shape of the nose, the jet engine intake shaping, rear wheel fairings and wing shape and size.”

Development of the Bloodhound SSC began in October 2008 as an attempt to break the land-speed record of 763mph set in 1997 at the Black Rock desert in Nevada. The vehicle was designed to travel faster than a bullet fired from a handgun, accelerating from 0-1,050mph in just 40 seconds time. A full-scale replica of the over 40-foot-long car was first unveiled at the Farnborough International Air Show in July 2010.