Earlier this week I held an exclusive Q&A with the team behind the amazing BLOODHOUND SSC via email. For those of you who are not familiar with the BLOODHOUND SSC Project, a team of British engineers are attempting to break the land speed record and reach 1,000mph and becoming the fastest vehicle in the world. Yes, 1,000mph. That is a mind-boggling top speed.
Andy Green OBE will be behind the wheel of this beast but he is no stranger to driving fast as he currently holds the world land speed record, he clearly wasn’t satisfied with 763mph. The BLOODHOUND SSC project itself is a huge undertaking with over 250 global companies involved in including Jaguar and Rolex. (Jaguar is the Bloodhounds Innovation Partner while Rolex is providing the interior dials).
People have asked me about the BLOODHOUND SSC Project so I gathered the most commonly asked questions and put them forward to the BLOODHOUND team to try and shed some light onto the project.
Q) What was the reason behind the name ‘BLOODHOUND’?
A) BLOODHOUND’s Chief Aerodynamicist Ron Ayers worked on the Bristol Bloodhound in the 50’s. It’s a cold war supersonic missile designed to shoot down Russian nuclear bombs. It was never fired in anger. The team used the Bloodhound name as a code name for the project before it launched and it stuck.
Q) What made you decide to try and break the land speed record?
A) The primary aim of the Project is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers by showcasing STEM subjects in the most exciting way possible. By building the ultimate jet and rocket powered racing car and setting a new world land speed record is a by-product.
Q) Why did you choose South Africa for your official run rather than America where land speed record attempts have been made previously?
A) Land speed records have traditionally been set at either the Bonneville Salt Flats (too hard for solid aluminium wheels) or Black Rock Desert, Nevada. Thanks to global warming, Black Rock hasn’t flooded properly for several years, so the dust kicked up by festivals like Burning Man has blown into drifts making it too bumpy. The weather window is also a challenge offering just six weeks of running. Swansea University used satellite imagery to scour the earth and find a suitable alternative. They found the Hakskeen Pan, South Africa which, whilst covered in stones, offered a six month weather window. The Northern Cape Government has funded 317 previously unemployed locals to clear the entire desert, by hand, making the best racetrack in the world.
Q) What gave you the idea to give people the chance to add their name to the tail fin?
A) At just £10 it’s a price point most kids can afford if they save up their pocket money. It’s a pretty cool thing to have your name go 1000mph.
Q) Why set the target of 1,000mph when the current Land Speed Record stands at 763mph? Wouldn’t a target of 800mph or 900mph have been more achievable?
A) 1,000mph is an aspirational number. It’s a massive challenge, pretty much the limit for existing technology and available run sites. The team aim to reach 800mph next summer as part of the high speed testing.
Q) The BLOODHOUND project is obviously an amazing feat of engineering, has it been more difficult than you anticipated?
A) Reaching 1,000mph safely on land is a huge challenge. The BLOODHOUND Team are solving problems that have never been posed before, nobody has ever wanted to spin a wheel at 1000mph / 170 rotations per second, so finding the right shape and material has been key.
Q) Is there a practical side to this project? Will the technological knowledge learnt from this be used elsewhere in the engineering world?
A) The BLOODHOUND Project generally uses known technologies and repurposes them for a slightly different purpose. The cutting edge Computational Fluid Dynamics study which mathematically mapped the airflow over the car to shape the aerodynamics is directly applicable to the development of high speed trains.
The hybrid rocket programme is being developed alongside a study for the European Space Agency who have commissioned a new family of light weight rockets.
Q) You have showcased the car at several events, is it important to get public support for the project?
A) As the primary aim of the Project is to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, public engagement is absolutely key as kids will be influenced by their parents, brothers, sisters, friends and teachers.
Q) There are two other countries attempting the land speed record as well (America and Australia). Are you worried about them?
A) We wish the Aussies and Americans well, it’s great to have some competition. The Land Speed Racing community is relatively small, there is plenty of friendly rivalry.
Q) What will happen to the car after the record attempt in South Africa?
A) BLOODHOUND will run in 2015 and 2016 (800mph and 1,000mph) and once the record is set it will likely end up in a museum where it can be enjoyed and the science studied by the public.
I wish all the best to the Bloodhound team in achieving the targeted 1,000mph. I am gutted that I will not be able to travel to South Africa to witness either record breaking attempt. I also would urge anyone who is interested to put their name on the tail fin of the Bloodhound. It is only £10 and you will be putting your name on a piece of history that you will be able to tell your children and grandchildren about one day.
If this Q&A has whet your appetite then you can find out more about the Bloodhound Project at their website.
Please let me know your thoughts and opinions. Feel free to leave comments below.