Friday October 27, 2017

Breaking the sound barrier in the Supersonic Bloodhound jet car

(Bloodhound SSC)

Listen 7:20

This week, the Bloodhound super sonic car completed its first high-speed test run on a landing strip at Cornwall Airport Newquay in Cornwall, England. And it was fast. Really fast.

The Bloodhound SSC, which is arguably more space rocket than car, reached 320 km/h in just nine seconds, but quickness off the line isn't the goal here.

"This is actually future technology that we're putting into this car.  We're trying to go supersonic, and jet thrust is the only way to get to supersonic." - Andy Green

The Bloodhound team is working towards a sustained top speed of 1600 km/h, which would easily break the current record set in 1997, when Wing Commander Andy Green reached 1227.93 km/h in the Thrust SSC.  
     
Green is back behind the wheel again and as he tells Day 6 host Brent Bambury, the car is exceeding all expectations.

"The car just felt well-sorted," he says. "The engine's been more responsive, we've got more power, more acceleration. Every single thing we've done so far in terms of testing all of the different systems is showing us that yes, we can reach 1,600 kilometres an hour."

Andy Green and Bloodhound

Fighter Pilot Andy Green (in blue and orange racing suit) prepares for a test run in the Bloodhound SSC on Thursday, October 26. (Bloodhound SSC)

       

About the car

The Bloodhound is a technological marvel more than 10 years in the making (allowing for a few delays). When the engineers encountered a problem without a clear solution, they had to invent new methods or create new components. Green says their work on this car is beyond cutting edge.

"This is actually future technology that we're putting into this car.  We're trying to go supersonic, and jet thrust is the only way to get to supersonic."

U.K. engineers test supersonic car1:16



The Bloodhound is 13.4 metres long. It resembles a Formula One race car with a Rolls-Royce EJ200 military jet engine strapped on the back. That's the same engine used in the EuroFighter Typhoon fighter jet.

"We're mating that with the next generation of hybrid rocket technology that are going to power the next generation of satellite launches," Green tells Bambury.

The result is 135,000 horsepower. For comparison, a 2017 Honda Civic has a 158 horsepower.

            
The view from the cockpit

Green says there are approximately thirty switches in the cockpit that control the jets, the hydraulics and all of the various bits of a supersonic jet and a rocket car.

"This is all about taking technology and creating an experiment and an adventure that will inspire a generation of young kids."   - Andy Green

The Newquay tests are the first time he's actually driven the Bloodhound, which means it's the first time he's buckled in and looked out of the small polycarbonate windscreen.

"It's a fantastic piece of technology," he says. "It gives me a very clear view looking ahead."

"[There is] no view out the sides, but let's face it, what do you need a side window in a car for? That's just in case somebody is going to overtake you," jokes Green. "That's not going to be a problem for this car."

His concern is simply to go straight and fast.

Andy Green AFP_TQ6JX

Andy Green sits in the cockpit of the Bloodhound supersonic car as he talks to technicians before starting a test run at the airport in Newquay on October 26. (Ben Stansall /AFP/Getty Images)

              

What the record means to Green

Green is a fighter jet pilot by trade. He set the current world land speed record on October 15, 1997, in another British jet-propelled car called Thrust SSC. It was the first land vehicle to officially break the sound barrier.

He says this isn't just about setting another land speed record, or even going to the limits of modern technology.

"This is all about taking technology and creating an experiment and an adventure that will inspire a generation of young kids."  

"Those kids who are going to build and live in the high-technology, low-carbon, energy-efficient world of the future. This is about actually letting them see just how magical science and technology can be."

BRITISH JET CAR DRIVER RESTS AFTER TESTING ABORTED

Andy Green leans against Thrust SSC after the first day of testing on Nevada's Black Rock desert. Green set the current land speed record of 1227.98 km/h in 1997. (Reuters)

   
Next up for the Bloodhound SSC

If all goes to plan, Green will attempt to break the land speed record in South Africa in 2018.

"My wife has occasionally asked how much longer this project is going to take, but at the same time, she was down here watching today and said that it's just totally brilliant."
 


To hear the full interview with Andy Green, download our podcast or click the 'Listen' button at the top of this page.