Faster than a speeding bullet - Bloodhound SSC

Rendering of the Bloodhound speeding over a salt-flat. A dust cloud is whipped up in its wake and the ignited engines spit with flames.

10 June 2015


When supersonic car BLOODHOUND SSC hits its top speed of over 1,000mph in 2016 it will move faster than a speeding bullet. More importantly, it will be travelling faster than any jet fighter has ever been at ground level. This has made the engineering challenges supremely difficult, but these are now mostly solved and the stunning 13.5m long car is finally taking shape. The Car is the brainchild of former world land speed record holder Richard Noble and will be driven by current record holder Andy Green. However, the final result will have involved teams of highly skilled people spread across the UK and further afield, including sponsors and manufacturers, who together would fill a football stadium. Which is perhaps ironic because while it’s breaking the record BLOODHOUND will travel the distance of a football stadium in less than the time it takes Andy – or any observer – to blink. The BLOODHOUND Project is, first and foremost, an educational project, with a huge team of educators and volunteer ambassadors using the Car as inspiration for hands-on experiences in schools in the UK and South Africa – where the record-breaking runs will take place – and further afield.

At the same time, it is stretching the imagination and skills of some of the most experienced engineering brains in the UK, including chief engineer Mark Chapman and Conor La Grue, engineering lead commercial and product sponsorship lead. Take the fin, for example, which La Grue describes as “the hardest working fin on anything at this altitude”. Built by a small, highly skilled team from the RAF’s 71 Squadron, the fin’s front and rear edges need to line up within 2mm and the whole structure has to survive side loads of over 5 tonnes.

While incredibly advanced engineering techniques have been used to design and manufacture the 3,500 parts that comprise the Car, the fin is a great example of how hands-on work is still important in engineering. For a start it is made up of 139 precision parts that are held together by 5,000 rivets, each of which sits in a hole that requires four different precision hand-drilling tasks. And the metal skins have compound curves that, for a one-off structure, could only be made using ‘wheeling’, again by hand. Everything else in the car has received the same careful consideration, including Andy Green’s recently fitted carbon seat, which has been precision moulded to make the drive as comfortable as possible at 1,000mph. The Car is nearly complete now but the engineering challenges will continue even when the team reaches South Africa later in 2015 and starts gathering data from its first runs. All eyes will be on it – including thousands of inspired school children and that metaphorical football stadium full of everyone who has contributed to the BLOODHOUND Project. Thanks to Bloodhound SSC for this post.

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