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. Grey

    The air instability at ground level at even a few hundred miles per hour is horrific. When the physical wall of the sound barrier passes over this car on the top and sides at ~700 MPH at the breakpoint, the acceleration burst is going to know this thing off its wheels. Good luck to the driver on this because if it does not stay stable, the odds of survival at 800+ MPH are not going to be good.

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

      I'm sure they know what they're doing and have the appropriate experts helping them.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      You do realize that a land vehicle has already broken the speed of sound.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      You know this is the team that already ran a supersonic car? You know they are missile and aircraft designers?

      October 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • cyberhackster

      The flux capacitor will not fail

      October 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Z666

    Yawn… wake me when the Transwarp drive is operational.

    October 4, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • someone

      Why do you bother if it's boring to you?

      October 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z666

      someone = NoONE in life

      October 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    I understand wanting to break land speed records but respecfully, when you try to break these records the challenge becomes to "not take flight" rather than go faster... Why not just fly? Just breaking records... I get it... but please don't die for only this one reason.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raxtich

      It's not just about breaking records. The engineering lessons learned from this project can be used to make better and safer automobiles for everyone else. We're talking about potential breakthroughs in tire design, braking systems, aerodynamics, fuel management, safety restraints, vehicle monitoring systems, windshields, etc...

      October 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • bozobub

      Realistically, because they find it fun, they are addicted to adrenaline (at least in the driver/pilot's case), they have the funding, and they think they CAN. As a secondary bonus, as they partially mentioned, there's a lot of scientific data to be gathered: fluid dynamics at Mach+ (especially in ground-effect, NOT the same as it is in flight), jet & rocket tech (the engine is pioneering), materials, and so on.

      Your lack of imagination is no constraint on others.

      October 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Batarnak

      Raxtich, Bozobub : Really? I don't think ANY of this will trickle down to passenger car development. Aircraft development, maybe. I haven't read anything about car makers backing this, and I don't think my Hyundai need Mach + fluid dynamics management... 😉
      P.S. I seriously doubt rubber is vaporized in the this process. 🙁

      October 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raxtich

      @Batarnak. Well, who would have thought going to the moon would have led to the discovery of things like CAT scans and MRIs, cordless power tools, better insulation, vastly improved food preservation and water purification techniques, and miniaturized electronics, just to name a few?

      October 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Mach 1 in the air is easy. I think an ultimate air speed record would be a great challenge. It would be nice to see a proper Schneider Trophy series re-instated, maximum speed unlimited aircraft. The British won the last three years of the race when it was a real bleeding edge event with the Supermarine 6 B before R.J.Mitchell used his experience to design the Spitfire. I wonder if Rolls Royce, P&W, Eurojet or someone else would like to front the millions necessary to come up with new engines. Maybe an England to... Boston race, you'd need a decent distance if you were going to try to exercise a 3-4,000 mph plane.

      October 4, 2012 at 8:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cake man

    That's cool lol

    October 4, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  5. eric


    October 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saywhat

    To all those who got my comments as something against tech advancement etc let me say a car with 1000 mph would surely be a toy for the super rich.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • bozobub

      You think so? How many of the "super rich" do you think have the chops to drive a similar vehicle..?

      October 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Dan

    In the hands of the super-rich they would end up super-dead.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Explodee

      Then by all means, let's make sure they all have one to play with!

      October 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  8. y

    Grey, thanks for your input. As soon as you get a job, you can save for college and the odds are not going to be good for your survival there. Until then, enjoy the couch and Playstation.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pete W

    What a brilliant project and at a time when we are short of world class engineers. Hopefully this will help to revitalise the need to educate more engineers and not bankers.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Biggie Smalls

      Well, the world is full of world-class engineers. It's the funding of such projects that we fall short of.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jeff

    Funny how some people have too much time and money to play with toys.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeck Moore

      Funny how these people obsess with such complicated systems, when they could break the sound barrier 10 times over with a simple Russian rocket rigged to their pencil. Or they could arrange a witnessed speed test, during which the clock would be reset. Pronto!*#@ they will have reached infinite speed!

      October 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • dan

      yeah yeah....I'm sure they said the same thing about the Wright brothers....those two guys are carzy to waste thier time and money trying to fly.

      October 4, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yeck Moore

      Yep, I can imagine Pluto dog in the driver seat, ears flapping in the wind, going at 1000 mph. Real hot dog!

      October 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    Grey: these people have run a supersonic car before. They are a large team of high end engineers and scientists with thousands of man years of experience in engineering and supersonic aerodynamics.

    Brad: your figures don't add up. The EJ200 gives 20,000 pounds of thrust but the rocket is rated at nearly 27,000 rather than the 14,000 it gave in this test. Those two combine to give the 180 NASCARs. The hydrogen peroxide is decomposed in to steam and oxygen by the silver catalyst which then burns the synthetic rubber. You don't turn the rubber in to an aerosol.

    UK: If you want to address the shortage of engineers you need to look at why boys are feeling disenfranchised in education. Why they feel unimportant and under appreciated. The US and UK have both spent decades trying to make schools work better for girls, what you needed was to bring the girls up, not swap from boys to girls. Then you need to stop saddling the bright kids you need to take engineering with a lifetime of debt, if I was 18 again I wouldn't take on the cost of a UK degree course because I'd never be able to pay off the debt, I'd join the RN or become a truck driver instead of taking an engineering degree. Finally you need to pay them what they are really worth, not the minimum you can get away with. A good engineer in the US makes $150-200,000 per year. A UK defense industry engineer is a much better trained and more professional person than a typical US graduate. When I was a principal consultant in the UK, designing and building top end military systems, I was earning 18,000 pounds a year, a single board in one of our computers was 16,000 pounds. So now I am in the US and we will continue taking any decent UK engineer we can get. It's a kind of economic warfare, we gain their abilities and we also deskill your workforce. Win win for us. Put your money where your mouth is.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mark

    What is the point? Who needs a vehicle that can go that fast?

    October 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Batarnak

      Wile E Coyote

      October 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Being the best. Being the fastest. Owning the record. Having every other wannabe in the world looking up to you. Keeping the record. Encouraging kids to get involved in engineering. Maybe saving the American Eagle guy's life by discouraging him from trying, he's got under half the thrust and an utterly unsuitable design, if he runs that thing up to trans-sonic speeds he is toast. Oh, and being the best. Still being the best actually, for the third car in a row, keeping the record they already hold and which nobody has challenged. One rocket car may have touched mach 1 briefly on one run, but that doesn't pass the criteria for a record run (both ways within an hour).

      October 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lolice

    Made by ACME inc.

    October 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  14. adam Day

    Ok...I know know we have run out of creativity and ideas....break the world land speed record of 763 mph.!! WOW...This is all we can come up with now??

    October 4, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hide Behind

    without our warmaking industries there would be a glut of highly skilled and innovative engineers whose energys would be available for "constructive" enterprises" versus the destructive ones.
    The high rate of pay is persicely because of almost unlimited funding by our governments dependence upon war as the most viable way that lack of managerial skills and corrupt tax systems every one of our top corporations need in order to survive worlds cosumer driven Enterprises
    The brain drain by private corpoate enterprises is mainly foreign filled if they are not military industrial or else they get the dregs government doeesn,T need.
    Over 70% of so called education bill is actually military and special corporate research funding thereby also draining the new entry skills while paying the cost of student loans.

    October 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
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