Rocket for supersonic 'hybrid car' passes first test
An artist's rendering from Curventa and Siemens shows the BLOODHOUND SSC.
October 4th, 2012
10:41 AM ET

Rocket for supersonic 'hybrid car' passes first test

The rocket that will help power a 1,000-mph car passed its first test Wednesday, British engineers say.

The project is dubbed Bloodhound SSC. Its organizers plan for the pencil-shaped car to be zooming along the South African desert next year and break the world land speed record of 763 mph.

"The initial indications are that it went very well indeed," the rocket's designer, self-taught engineer Daniel Jubb, 28, told the Western Morning News in Cornwall, England, where the rocket was tested inside a hangar at a Royal Air Force base.

Engineers were looking over reams of data from the test to determine their next steps.

Jubb calls the Bloodhound's power plant a hybrid system, but it's not the type you'd find on your uncle's Prius.

It's a hybrid because the rocket uses a solid fuel, which is a synthetic rubber, and turns it into an aerosol with with a high-test peroxide and catalyst of fine silver mesh. The fuel is actually fired into the rocket by a Cosworth engine of the type found in Formula One race cars. Then all that power is combined with the thrust from a jet engine like the ones on Typhoon fighter planes.

The rocket hybrid produced 14,000 pounds of thrust on Wednesday. That's the equivalent of about 40,000 horsepower. The additional thrust from the  fighter jet engine will give the car a total of 135,000 horsepower. In contrast, the Prius hybrid system produces 134 horsepower. The engine of a NASCAR Sprint Cup race car produces about 750 horsepower. So Bloodhound will have the power of 180 NASCAR cars, or four times the entire starting grid at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.

Driving the Bloodhound on the South African test track will be Andy Green, a Royal Air Force pilot with experience flying Tornado fighters over Bosnia, Iraq and the Falklands.

The organizers of the Bloodhound project hope to do more than set a land speed record. They're hoping it helps change Britain by inspiring young people to take up engineering.

"It is very important in the UK that we address the shortage of engineers. Less than an hour before we fired that rocket we had children in there asking questions, I hope that helps inspire the next generation," the Western Morning News quoted Jubb as saying.

When the project was launched in 2008, organizers also said it would "also be the catalyst for a raft of cutting-edge research in fields such as aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, materials technology, composite manufacturing and sustainable high-tech engineering."

So maybe we'll be motoring around on solid aluminum wheels one day. That's how the Bloodhound will travel. It will be going so fast that it can't use conventional wheels. Instead, the four wheels, two inside the nose and two set outside the frame at the rear, will be made completely of aluminum. They'll weigh about 210 pounds each and spin at 10,000 rpm.

Meanwhile, before the British group can go for a 1,000-mph record, an American outfit hopes to try to push the current mark to beat a bit higher.

North American Eagle says on its website that it plans to run a turbojet-powered vehicle across a Western desert at 771 mph some time this year.

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Filed under: Technology • South Africa • United Kingdom • Automobiles
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. Power

    Extremely, extremely polluting.
    That's what this article fails to mention.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  2. mmi16

    Land Speed Record runs – Danger to the extreme! Drivers in such runs have to have a large pair – that may never be found if something goes wrong.

    October 5, 2012 at 1:49 am | Report abuse |
  3. Hide Behind

    It helps to have small or no balls when piloying one of these speed machines.
    That way the driver don't choke to death. The US version is piloted by a female, which saves weight.

    October 5, 2012 at 3:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    The Indy 500 could be finished in half an hour.

    October 5, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. vbscript2

    Hmm... this kind of depends on how you define "land speed record." This will not be the fastest land-based vehicle by any stretch of the imagination, though it might be the fastest that isn't on rails. A U.S. Air Force rocket sled holds the real land speed record at Mach 8.5 (6,416 mph.) It was powered by a solid rocket booster. – lol

    October 5, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      The land speed record (or absolute land speed record) is the highest speed achieved by a wheeled vehicle on land. Not rails. I guess you're not into motor sports.

      October 8, 2012 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Damanthia

    "Pencil shaped" ? Looks like my toy. Anyway, all that sand and dust can't be good for the intake manifold.

    October 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TvNyC

    Supersonic is fast. they should built supersonic trains without room for error. No gasoline involved, they should get the technology that is combined by many technologies. A generator within a generator. They'll have to be huge machinery. America will create the new world. Clean energy is the key. Therefore, we want to create an independent energy nation. We will also create more jobs than ever. Our dollar is not worth as much as it used to be, but by creating a new transportation for t le planet,we will once again bring manufacturable jobs. Way more than 30 million jobs in the next 10 years.

    October 5, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • fjamesgang

      Jesus! you sound like your running for president

      October 6, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • slendi

      what he said

      October 9, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse |
  8. NUNYA

    THIS IS THE STUPIDEST THING I HAVE SEEN, WE HAVE NO NEED FOR THIS KIND OF FAILURE. THIS IS PURE EGO... AND NOT ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY. IT WIL GO WRONG..

    October 6, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I'm sure if the US was developing this, you'd be all ears.

      October 8, 2012 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  9. Wagman

    I don't think that will fit in my garage.

    October 8, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
  10. rdp

    Self taught engineer, no but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express!

    October 9, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  11. Skeptical

    They should come to the US for engineers: there's millions of them working in McDonalds and Wall-Marts, if they're working at all. Don't fall for the engineer shortage myth: trying to pay off 60k of student debt on a part-time, minimum wage job isn't fun.

    October 9, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. RetiredVet

    Its a hybrid car alright, its powered by MONEY.

    October 9, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
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