An incredible feat of engineering is close by. The Bloodhound Supersonic Car (Bloodhound SSC) will be the first land vehicle in history to travel at over 1000 m/h (1600 km/h). What’s more, it will be done here on South African soil, on a dry lake bed in the Northern Cape right next to the Namibian border called Hakskeenpan. The Bloodhound team will perform multiple runs throughout the year in their effort to reach their target.

The Bloodhound Project is a joint effort sponsored by a plethora of individuals, organisations, companies and universities. The main sponsors include big names such as Rolls-Royce, Jaguar and Castrol, all who have their logos appearing on the chassis of the engineering marvel along with a stylised British flag on the fin. Ordinary people also have the opportunity to have their names painted on the historical car in exchange for a small donation to the project.

The Bloodhound boasts a Jaguar supercharged V8 engine which will drive an oxidiser pump for a hybrid rocket. A Eurojet EJ200 engine is used to help with control and will bring the car up to a speed of 480 kph. The Jaguar engine and rocket will then kick in and deliver enough thrust to accelerate the car to its target speed. The whole process from 0 to 1600 km/h will take 42 seconds.

The combined power of this system is equivalent to eight times the horsepower of all the cars on a formula one track combined. The wheels of the car are made entirely from an aluminium alloy, as a conventional rubber tyre would simply be ripped apart at such high speeds. Its wheels, almost one metre in diameter, will be rotating at 170 revolutions per second and the force at their edges will be equivalent to 50 000 times the force of gravity.

The Bloodhound Project is being developed by the same team that built the last record-breaking car, the Thrust SSC, which became the first land vehicle to break the sound barrier. Richard Noble, the project director of both the Thrust project and the Bloodhound project, wrote on Bloodhound’s official website that his motivation to construct a second, faster car is predominantly to build interest in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) industry for young children, referring to his concern that Britain is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of engineers and Stem professionals. Members of the Bloodhound team regularly visit schools and institutions to give talks on the project and its progress. Noble spoke recently about a police officer who stopped him in the lobby of the House of Commons to tell him how the Thrust SSC had inspired his son to become an engineer. Noble also takes great care to emphasise that the specifications for the Bloodhound are fully available to the public for educational purposes.

Another integral member of the team is Andy Green, a Royal Air Force Wing Commander. He was at the wheel of the Thrust SSC and will perform the same duty for the Bloodhound almost 20 years later. Green will be in full control of the car, even as it exceeds the sound barrier and outpaces fighter jets.

Videos of the manufacturing process and tests of the various high-tech parts of the project are released regularly and can be found on YouTube or on the group’s website, along with detailed information on their activities. They also have active Twitter and Facebook pages from which they release footage, pictures and updates on the project’s progress. The group encourages those interested to register on their website for a chance to visit Hakskeenpan to watch the Bloodhound’s test runs and, eventually, witness Andy Green break the land.


Image: Shen Scott

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