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: Automobiles • South Africa • Technology • United Kingdom
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. T

    Rocket car, I once saw this in a movie called "The Rat Race" (2001) about a group of people in Las Vegas, trying to beat each other racing across the US to a small town that has 2 million dollars in a locker.
    In one segment, Whoopi Goldberg and Lanai Chapmen playing mother and daughter steal a rocket car, takes off crossing the desert and even beating out a bullet pacing alongside them.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Whatisyourpoint

      what is your point?

      October 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Shalisa

      Wow. I saw that *rare* movie too. Thanks for sharing! Really?

      October 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      @ t: i personally prefered "cannonball run" those were great movies. 🙂

      October 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Badly-Bent

      Most bullets travel about 900 feet per second (its possible rifles could be even faster?). My math isn't the greatest but, I come out with about 613 MPH.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian

      i liked it better when hitlers car gets stolen.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve Wright

      I just hope that these attempts are Televised for all of to enjoy on TV!

      October 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • John W.

      @WHATISYOURPOINT: What is his point? Who ever has a point to make in the comments section?

      @SHALISA: Your four sentences: three of them tired, cliched expressions. Bravo.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Evenstar13

    If they are successful in reaching the 1000mph mark, then I will say yea for them. However, any issue during the run, at such a high rate of speed, will without a doubt be fatal to the driver. Question is, is it worth it?

    October 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • trees141

      Only the driver can answer that, and it appears he answers it in the affirmative.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Pretty sure the driver realizes he's not going to survive if there's a major problem. The thing is, people who push the envelope like this DO understand that and still feel it's worth it. If they didn't, they'd be sitting on the sidelines like us. It's called the "right stuff".

      October 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      @ever: with some exceptions i would say most advancements in technology are always a risk and most of the time worth that risk for the mounds of data we recieve that will make things safer the next time.
      just take the first automobile, it rolled around without seatbelts and had thin wheels like on a wagon.
      most vaccines and radiology technology were at the cost of human life, but now save humans everyday.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • cleareye1

      They most likely have an auto-eject system aboard.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank Lucchesi

    I'm all for advancing technology and inspiring the next generation but after they pass 1000 mph, I think that should be enough, because who gives a flying f after that. Move onto some other feet of engineering, and quick. Top of the list: removing all the CO2 from tail pipe admissions. This needs to be done at least as an interim step until it's all electric or hydrogen drive.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • trees141

      As long as we are using carbon-based fuels, we will have carbon compounds in the exhaust. That's just simple high school chemistry.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      @frank: the electric engine i can agree with; however hydrogen is too unstable and dangerous to have in automobiles. a simple accident if those fuel cells are ruptured would lead to a horrible explosion which could ignite other hydrogen based fuel cells in other automobiles caught in the first explosion.
      imagine what that type of accident would do to a tightly packed city like NYC or LA? not pretty.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      WASP, the current design of auto hydrogen tanks contain substances that absorb the hydrogen and release it at a slow rate. So if the tank is ruptured, the worst case scenario is something like an acetylene torch. Dangerous, yes. But explosive, no.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      trees141, I think Frank's vision is some sort of "scrubber" in the exhaust system that would absorb the CO2 after combustion.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • cleareye1

      1000 mph will not be enough. Somewhere, some man will want to surpass it. Men are built that way. Women are smarter than that.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      Wasp, any rupture and ignition of a conventional hydrogen tank results in a rather low-temp (for fire) fireball floating rapidly upwards. The rupture and ignition of a tank of gasoline reslts in a rapidly spreading high-temp burning puddle on the ground.

      Gasoline is far more dangerous a fuel than hydrogen.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. TickTickTick

    If you liked this story check out The Worlds Fastest Indian

    You may like that as well!

    October 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • trees141

      Absolutely WONDERFUL story; one of my favorite movies. A true story from an era where it was still acceptable to dream.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rogue

      Just recently saw that movie... very endearing story. If men sit idle with no risk.... advancement in sciences sit idle as well.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Hide Behind

    Just wait until instead of a rocket engine used for propulsion the new pulse weaponry is used to launch a vehicle. Not practicle? Already we have vehicles using rails that do mot touch vehicle capable of 300 mph with an addition of a launch force traffic tubes could boost speeds even. fast enough to crush occpants. Just think of the benefits to Mc D. Load a car with live catle in wyoming and 30 minutes later a plant in NY gets red slime for burgers.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • WASP

      @hide: ROFLMFAO! XD

      October 4, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      "Load a car with live catle in wyoming and 30 minutes later a plant in NY gets red slime for burgers."

      you posted that during lunch? really? dude!

      October 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mike

    Speeding along the ground at 1000mph seems kind of silly when flying is an option.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • bsc1216

      I agree Mike, way to risky to get in a vehicle at those speeds. at those speeds you can travel from NY to Miami in 1 hr and 25 min.

      October 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • shrinktofit

      ...and never get pulled over on I-95 by the profile police.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • BobJackson

      This project isn't about developing practical transportation. It's simply about seeing if someone can figure out how to do it. If they reach 1000, the next step will be 1001. Then 1002. Then 1003. It just keeps going. That's the human spirit.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  7. FredUp

    Cosworth may never power a Prius, but they did help make a pretty cool Vega once upon a time.

    October 4, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. justsayin'

    in the video at 17sec. watch the cardboard man fall over

    October 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Badly-Bent

    It would seem to me that above 700 mph they run the risk of air molecules bouncing off the fuselage tip and never hitting the engine intake tube?

    October 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael

      It's all about maintaining laminar flow over the nose. It is placed high on the fuselage for a reason; there are even splitter plates to assist in airflow management. Even at speeds in excess of Mach 1, the shock wave would not bypass the air intake. If that were the case, every supersonic fighter in the world would never be able to attain such speeds.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Robert

    I'm an engineer and I will tell you that this thing is extremely dangerous. Where could they use it? One rock in the road and it will become a projectile to not only kill the driver but also anyone who happens to be unlucky enough to be in it's path. It's just luxury engineering... an "oh wow" project... a "dog and pony show."

    October 4, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tesla

      Well, from one engineer to another, I say... so what?

      Of course it's an "Oh wow!" project! That's one of two types of projects that recieve copious amounts of funding for experimentation. If your idea requires a massive amount of capital for design, engineering, and production, then it will either be an "oh wow!" or a military project. Significant public interest or significant government interest is necessary.

      Besides, it's for a good cause! Science is awesome, and the bounds of nature and the human form must be constantly pushed to discover their limitations, and to exceed those limitations. The more we encourage people's interest in sciences and mathematics, the further we can come as a species, and the further we can move from ignorance. How is this a bad thing?

      October 4, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • CafeenMan

      It's unfortunate that you are the ONLY engineer on the planet. If any of them were engineers they might have thought of that. Instead, the probably spread pebbles all in the path of the vehicle thinking flying debris will add to the dramatic effect.

      And then there are hundreds of people planned to be directly in the path of the vehicle when it does it's speed run. You might want to let someone know that could lead to an undesirable. outcome.

      October 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      "I'm an engineer and I will tell you that this thing is extremely dangerous"

      I'm not an engineer and yet I didnt need you to tell me its dangerous but thats their choice.
      I am sure Yeagar knew it was dangerous when the X-1 was dropped free of the B-29 carrying it but he did it anyway.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. D00SH

    Great! Wonder how it takes corners? Are they going to raise the speed limit on our highways now?

    October 4, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. anthony

    An interesting but fundamentally useless undertaking.
    Increasing the overall flow of traffic on the planet's roads by just 2 mph would be a far more remarkable achievement.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Lejaune

    Actually, I think this contributes nothing to science or engineering. The technology used here is nothing new. NASA or GM will have no interests in the result of the test. Maybe the parts suppliers will make a few bucks and that's about all.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alano

      I agree with Lejaune. I challenge the team to show any real catalysis of "sustainable high-tech engineering".

      October 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • cedar rapids

      "Actually, I think this contributes nothing to science or engineering."

      really? you dont think going from 763mph to 1,000mph will contribute anything to science or engineering?

      October 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • bozobub

      If you believe that, you're a fool. The engine alone is quite new tech, for one. Luckily, you're obviously no engineer.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jimmynog

    No mention of what they think will happen if they exceed the speed of sound, about 768 mph at sea level. Is the figure "763" indicating they will not attempt to do so? It's pretty close.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • doughnuts

      Look up "Thrust SSC" and you will see that you are wrong. The sound barrier was already broken by a land vehicle at the Blackrock Desert in Nevada (elev. 3907 ft.). The car broke the sound barrier on both the north and South runs (only 760 mph on the South run). The same guy that is slated to pilot the 1000 mph vehicle drove that one.

      October 4, 2012 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Huh?

    Designed by a self-trained engineer? Hope it has an ejection seat.... (that works)

    October 4, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
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