Richard Noble talks to PH about where the Bloodhound team is in its mission to hit 1,000mph
The design and aerodynamic tailoring of Bloodhound SSC is now complete, project director Richard Noble has confirmed, and the first batch of commissioned parts are due to arrive back at the Bristol HQ from next month when initial assembly of the 1,000mph world land speed record hopefully can begin.
Noble boasts things are coming together
Speaking to a delegation of Guild of Motoring Writers members this week, Noble said, right now, "we're winning". The biggest problems are lack of sleep and lack of money but the design of the car itself is on track. The current plan is to finish the rolling chassis by December, hopefully run it in South Africa in August 2013 for a few months ("we could go supersonic in 2013") before returning to the UK for a re-work and review.
"In 2014, we'll go back to South Africa and finish it. Well, that's the plan..."
Bloodhound SSC is a project that's already well known and some are wondering why it's taking so long. Noble is clear here; the project is more complex than building a modern fighter jet. "We are pushing boundaries, running five activities in parallel to save time. If we did everything in sequence, it would take 30 years. We simply can't do that."
Rallying public support is a priority
Part of the complexity comes from Bloodhound's goal of inspiring schoolchildren. Referencing the huge spike in engineering PhDs seen in the US when the Apollo space programme first ran in the 1960s, Noble explains this is key to the team getting its supply of Eurojet engines. "Lord Drayson told us the MoD has a problem - it can't recruit engineers. He wanted an iconic project to enliven children. I knew we could do this."
And how. Bloodhound is now studied in thousands of schools across the country. Recently Northamptonshire committed EVERY school to the Bloodhound project - that's 100 schools and 12,000 children. Not hard to see why - the team has even developed Key Stage-compliant lesson plans for teachers. These, like everything in the project, is open source. When the car runs, up to 500 live data channels will be streamed on the internet for everyone, including schools, to access and monitor.
That's some pump you got there...
Bloodhound SSC is powered by the Eurofighter Typhoon EJ200 jet engine plus a hybrid rocket - the combination gives best power and control as, while fast, rockets are not known for their manageability. Famously, the rocket pump is driven by a 2.4-litre Cosworth V8 F1 engine, which exhausts the 1,000-litre rocket fuel tank in just 20 seconds. To put that into context, 0-1,000mph is estimated to take 42 seconds.
"The biggest problem is not getting up to speed," says Noble, "it's stopping it again." Remember, land speed record rules require two timed runs to be conducted within an hour, with the average of the two forming the overall speed. If you can't get the thing stopped in place and turned around on time, you're done for.
Real power via the rocket and jet motors
Preparing the area itself has been the subject of another huge project. The speed runs will take place in Hakskeen Pan, a 12-mile strip of South African desert. Which, until recently, was covered in rocks. Until, that is, Bloodhound recruited 300 locals to, literally, clean the area. "That's 24m square metres of stone, removed by hand," says Noble, who recently visited to personally thank the entire team.
So how can you help out? Well, money is always welcome, says Noble. As the rear fin has now more than doubled in size, paying £10 to have your name on it is a start. You can join the Bloodhound Club for £20 and, if you pay £75 for Gold membership, you get to see the car during its first UK test run, scheduled for later this year.
Hand cleared desert prepped for record runs
So far, the project has spent £7.5m to date, 42 per cent of the total £18m budget. A bargain if the car does achieve its goal of Mach 1.4, or 1,000mph (Noble wanted Mach 1.5, "horse-trading with the engineers saw us settle on Mach 1.4.") Surely it's now time we all got behind it?
For more on Bloodhound by the man due to drive it keep it PH for Chris Harris's story on meeting Andy Green - coming soon!