The UK-based team chasing a new world land-speed record will send its Bloodhound supersonic car to South Africa in October, the project has confirmed.
Following the Bloodhound’s successful 320 km/h runway trial at Cornwall Airport Newquay, in the UK, in October last year, the team will be targeting 800 km/h as the next milestone in its attempt to break the current land-speed record of 1 227.98 km/h set in 1997.
The ultimate hope is to reach 1 000 mph, or 1 609 km/h.
The dry lake bed race track chosen for the record attempt is at Hakskeen Pan, in the Northern Cape.
The ‘Bloodhound 500’ trials will aim to test the car’s performance and handling during one of its most vulnerable phases – the point between 640 km/h and 800 km/h, where the stability of the car transitions from being governed by the interaction of the wheels with the desert surface, to being controlled by the vehicle’s aerodynamics.
The grip from the wheels will fall off faster than the aerodynamic forces build up, so this is likely to be the point where the Bloodhound is at its least stable.
Data on the interaction between the solid aluminium wheels, which will be used for the first time, coupled with base drag measurements, will provide real-world insight into the power required to set the record.
Base drag relates to the aerodynamic force produced by low pressure at the rear of the car, sucking it back.
As the car approaches transonic speeds, this force far exceeds the friction of the air passing over Bloodhound’s bodywork.
The car’s wheels have been specially designed for the desert surface.
Measuring 900 mm in diameter and weighing 95 kg each, they are designed to spin at up to 10 200 rpm – more than four times faster than wheels on an F1 car at top speed.
The result of 30 years of research and design, they were created by an international consortium and forged from one of the highest aircraft grade aluminium alloys in the world – 7037.
The wheels have a V-shaped keel that should dig into the alkali playa (baked mud) surface of Hakskeen Pan by 25 mm when the car is stationary.
As speeds increase, the wheels will rise up out of the mud surface, in much the same way as a speedboat rides up on the surface of the water.
At 804 km/h and above, just a few millimetres of metal will be in contact with the desert surface, and the giant alumimium discs will act more like rudders than the wheels on a conventional car.
The Bloodhound 500 tests will be conducted using the car’s Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine, normally found in a Eurofighter Typhoon, which produces a peak thrust of 90 kilonewtons, equivalent to 54 000 thrust hp, or the combined output of 360 family cars.
“The track is 19 km by 500 m, with large safety areas on both sides,” says Bloodhound engineering director Mark Chapman.
“This allows us to lay out up to 50 individual tracks side by side. This is important as we can’t run over the same piece of ground twice, because the car will break up the baked mud surface as it passes.
“We need multiple tracks so we can build speed slowly and safely – going up in 80 km/h steps, comparing real-world results with theoretical data – and Hakskeen Pan is the perfect place to do this.
“The surface is hard, which means we’ve been able to design slightly narrower wheels that reduce aerodynamic drag. The desert surface also has a slight degree of ‘give’, which will work with the suspension to give a smoother ride, reducing vibration inside the car.”
During the Bloodhound 500 tests, hundreds of gigabits of information will be gathered by more than 500 sensors built into the car.
This won’t just be used by the Bloodhound team, but will be shared with schools around the world, thanks to the project’s cloud computing partner, Oracle.
Students will be invited to analyse the data and mark the engineers’ ‘homework’ in real time, as part of the project’s aim to further interest in science, engineering and mathematics.
In a continued effort to raise funds, the not-for-profit Bloodhound project is inviting supporters to join them at the trials. A limited number of places are available for pre-booking, via http://www.bloodhoundssc.com/bloodhound500.
Guests will visit the desert technical centre, attend team briefings and meet driver Andy Green.