March 6, 2011

Brits Building 1000 MPH Rocket Car

A rocket that is planned to power a British car to over 1,000 mph will get its first test firing in the coming months.

Producing 27,000 pounds of thrust, the hybrid Falcon motor will be the largest rocket to be ignited in the United Kingdom in nearly two decades.

However, it will not be the only power source in the Bloodhound vehicle when it attempts to break the land speed record next year. A jet engine from a fighter plane and an engine from an F1 car will also power the car.

The team behind the project believes three engines could secure the land speed record for Britain for many years to come. "We are creating the ultimate car; we're going where no-one has gone before," Bloodhound project director, Richard Noble, told BBC News.

The team is scouting several possible locations for the rocket test.

One place is Pendine in West Wales where several records have been set in the 1920s. Another possible test location is Shoeburyness in eastern England where the engines for the current record holder, the Thrust SSC, were tested. Both locations have military test centers.

The rocket powering the Bloodhound will measure 18 inches by 12 feet and will be designed and built by British engineers. It will burn a mixture of solid propellant (HTPB, or hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene) and liquid oxidizer (high-test peroxide, HTP) for 20 seconds.

The rocket, combined with the jet engine, should give the Bloodhound sufficient energy to put itself roughly 5 miles away from its starting position in 100 seconds flat.

The rocket is being developed by the Falcon Project Ltd, a specialist rocket-building company based in Manchester and led by 27-year-old self-trained rocketeer Daniel Jubb.

"We've done 10 firings to date of our six-inch model - that was in the Mojave Desert in California," explained Jubb. "We've also done one on the 18-inch Bloodhound model, but it was pressure-fed; it wasn't done using our new pump and that's the point about this upcoming test."

The Falcon will need more than 2,000 lbs of HTP pushed through it, which the F1 engine will handle.

Cosworth, which builds power units for F1 cars, will be making one of its CA2010 engines available just to drive the Falcon's oxidizer pump. Cosworth engineers will have to make several modifications to meet the new challenges to make the CA2010 work in Bloodhound.

One challenge will be the engine position. In Bloodhound, the engine will sit backwards, meaning the oil lubricant will move about the engine in a different manner. The engineers will need to manage this carefully for it to run smoothly and efficiently. The designers also have to figure out how to let the engine "breathe" when it is sitting in a car moving 1,000 mph.

"To the best of my knowledge there isn't a piston engine operating anywhere that's in a vehicle that's running at supersonic speed," Cosworth chief executive Tim Routsis told BBC News.

"It means the way you actually connect the engine to the outside world needs an awful lot of thought because if we were to feed it a supersonic airflow we would give it a fairly epic amount of boost and it would be very powerful for an extremely short period of time. In areas like this, we are moving into the unknown," said Routsis.

The Bloodhound has only just begun being built last month. But the vehicle should be finished and ready to begin "low-speed" trials on a UK runway in the first half of next year before being shipped to Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape for high-speed runs in 2012 or 2013.

The Bloodhound project was not only developed to break another land speed record, but also to inspire children to become interested and engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects.

Some 1.5 million children in more than 4,000 British schools are now involved in the Bloodhound Education Program.

"When Richard first talked to me about Bloodhound I got very engaged, very quickly, because I saw it as a wonderful platform through which we can introduce the young boys and girls to the sort of world that we work in," said Routsis.

"We can show them that STEM subjects are not just boring things you do in a classroom, but they can actually lead to an extremely interesting set of challenges that you can address in a very fulfilling life," he added.


Image Caption: Bloodhound front static view (Credit: curventa/Bloodhound SSC)


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