The British bid for the land speed record is in its final countdown.
Overnight, the Bloodhound SSC, the car that the team behind it hopes will propel driver and RAF pilot Andy Green past the 1000 mph mark, got its paint job.
That’s got all its fans excited, because they know the colours usually only come at the business end of a racecar’s evolution. The Bloodhound team say they’ll begin testing on the Hakskeen Pan in the north-western corner of South Africa sometime in 2015, preparing for their record run in 2016.
The current land speed record sits at 763.035 mph. Green was the driver behind that mark too, in ThrustSSC in Black Rock Desert, USA, nearly 20 years ago. So, pushing the Bloodhound SSC up to a possible 1050mph will smash the record out of the park, if successful, by more than 235 mph.
That’s nearly twice as much as the biggest jump in the record’s history – 121 mph by Craig Breedlove when he pushed Spirit of America – Sonic 1 up to 555.485 mph in 1965 at Bonneville in the US. (He added another 45 mph just 13 days later.)
Here’s some of the amazing things you need to know about the Bloodhound SSC, which has been in development since October 2008.
For starters, here’s Green, who also happens to be a Wing Commander:
The project was commissioned by the then UK Minister for Science, Lord Drayson, in 2008.
He approached Green and another former land speed record holder, Richard Noble, to head the project. The pair broke the record twice in 1997 in ThrustSSC.
Drayson launched the project first and foremost as an educational project, designed to inspire kids to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The team is constantly visiting schools and holding workshops where students try their hand at all sorts of rocket-related projects.
But all the machining, screwing and polishing has been happening in Avonmouth, Bristol.
The Bloodhound SSC has three engines. A jet engine taken from a Eurofighter to get it to 300 mph straight off the mark:
A rocket engine to push it past the 1000 mph limit:
And a turbocharged V8 from an F-Type Jaguar, just to pump the fuel into the rocket engine:
Actually, there’s another turbocharged Jag V8.
This special edition, which made its debut yesterday at the Coventry MotoFest:
It’s fast and as rudely noisy as a 550hp Jag should be, but more importantly, it’s got enough hi-tech gear on board to process communications from a fighter jet approaching at a closing speed of 650 mph. That’s good, because it’s the Bloodhound’s support car and the ground crew will need to be able to communicate with Green in the cockpit.
All up, the three engines will produce 135,000hp – about the same as 135 Bugatti Veyrons.
Green will lie feet-first in the Bloodhound.
— BLOODHOUND SSC (@BLOODHOUND_SSC) April 23, 2015
He’ll experience 2.5g of force as he accelerates to 1000mph in 42 seconds, and 3g as he brakes.
He’s been conditioning himself by flying upside-down in stunt aircraft, so he doesn’t black out in the car.
The 36-inch wheels are made from solid aluminium to withstand centrifugal forces of up to 50,000g as they rotate at up to 10,200rpm.
Place a sugar cube inside the rim at that level and it would weigh as much as two men. And some other amazing facts:
This is Daniel Jubb:
He joined the team at age 24 as its rocket genius. He’s a prodigy who left school at 13, built a rocket that reached terminal velocity of Mach 1.2 at 14 and soon after started supplying the US military with solid propellant motors through his company, The Falcon Project.
Jubb designed the original rocket engine for the Bloodhound, which test-fired successfully with enough thrust – equivalent to 95 Formula One cars – to push Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic into space.
However, rising costs of developing a rocket engine from scratch saw the team switch to Norway-based engineers Nammo last year. Their hybrid engines separate the stages on the European Space Agency’s big Ariane 5 rocket.
Here’s their successful test for the Bloodhound power plant:
The venue – Hakskeen Pan
One oversight was the lack of water in the South African desert. As they realised there could be as many as 60,000 spectators and support teams watching on for up to several days, the team has been working for nearly a year on a 160km pipeline to the Hakskeen Pan.
Some 130 farms and 10,000 locals will benefit from it after the Bloodhound SSC team has packed up.
The Pan was chosen because over the 12 miles the Bloodhound will run on, the ground undulates by just 40cm.
Locals have helped make it even smoother by picking up 3000 tonnes of rocks off it over the past three years.
Farmers and villagers will also benefit from the five 70m high mobile phone towers erected for the event for broadcast purposes so Green won’t have to wear the kind of gear he wore in the 70s.
It’s going to be an amazing event, whatever the outcome. It will be nearly 20 years since the last time the record was broken, and the Bloodhound team have done an incredible job keeping fans updated since 2008 and working the school rounds.
Now it seems, with the paint being applied, everyone’s finally approaching the skinny end.