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Supersonic Car Will Be Faster Than a Bullet, Scientists Hope

Illustration courtest Bloodhound SSC British engineers and other experts are hoping to build a rocket-powered vehicle capable of reaching more than 1,000 mph, faster than a bullet fired from a handgun. The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC ) will be driven by Andy Green, who set the current land speed record of 763 mph on October...


Illustration courtest Bloodhound SSC

British engineers and other experts are hoping to build a rocket-powered vehicle capable of reaching more than 1,000 mph, faster than a bullet fired from a handgun.

The Bloodhound supersonic car (SSC ) will be driven by Andy Green, who set the current land speed record of 763 mph on October 15, 1997.

The vehicle that will attempt to break the 1,000 mph barrier will have the first ever mixed power plant of a hybrid rocket motor and a jet engine that is currently used on the Eurofighter Typhoon. It is hoped that the car will be ready for testing in 2011.


“Building a car quicker than a fighter jet is not, however, the primary goal of the project,” the organizers of the project said today. “Rather, it is to inspire future generations to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics by showcasing these subjects in the most exciting way possible.”

The British government is funding some of the education components of the project. The building and running of the vehicle is a private venture, funded in part with sponsorships from Swansea University, STP, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Serco, and the University of the West of England, and others.

The prime objective of project is to create an “unprecedented education and engagement program” led by a dedicated team of teachers and education specialists, the organizers said.


“From innovative, curriculum-based lesson plans covering subjects ranging from geography to citizenship, as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, to a schools visitor centre featuring the ‘classroom of the future’ at the team’s HQ in Filton, Bristol, the aim is to make Bloodhound SSC accessible to all ages from 5 to 19 and beyond,” the organizers said.

Illustration courtesy Bloodhound SSC 

“As the ultimate, unlimited racing car, Bloodhound SSC will 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.”


“I hope that this iconic British project will encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers as we will depend on them to find the solutions to everything from climate change to growing population pressures,” said Paul Drayson, the British Minister of State for Science and Innovation.

The jet and rocket-powered vehicle will be more advanced than most spacecraft, its designers say. The car will accelerate from 0 – 1,050 mph in 40 seconds.

Illustration courtesy Bloodhound SSC 

“At this speed, Andy Green will be covering a distance equivalent to over four football pitches every second, or 50 meters [55 yards] in the blink of an eye,” the organizers said.


Illustration courtesy Bloodhound SSC 

The project managers plan to share the designing, building and running of the car with the public “every step of the way.” The project will “make full use of channels such as YouTube, Twitter and other social networking sites to keep a global audience up to date with every breakthrough, set back and triumph.”

Drayson said: “Breaking world land speed records is no longer about strapping an engine onto a buggy and pointing it at the horizon. Today, the application of new and exciting science and technology is the only way to achieve such results.

“If Bloodhound SSC is to reach its target of Mach 1.4, equivalent to 1,000 mph, the team behind it will need to solve some ambitious challenges in science, engineering and [math], from constructing the largest hybrid rocket motor ever built in the UK, to making major advances in sensor technology and designing wheels to cope with these incredible forces.”


Illustration courtesy Bloodhound SSC 

Scientists at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL) have worked with the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) and Fluid Gravity Engineering (FGE) to advise the team on two of the most high-risk aspects of the world record attempt — wheel and rocket designs.

“The wheels are arguably the most important design feature for the vehicle,” NPL said. “To reach 1,000 mph they need to be able to rotate at 10,500 rpm without being damaged by the surface or any stones that they run over. They also need to be as light as possible to minimize steering and suspension forces, absorb all of the weight, down force loads and stresses and distribute this pressure without causing damage to the vehicle or the surface.”

NPL spent the last year examining every aspect of the wheel design. Its materials experts researched the choice of metals and composites that could be used in the design, providing reports on titanium and aluminum alloys, and metal composites.

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Author Photo David Max Braun
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn