GOOD news that Cosworth, a British engineering company best known as the maker of high-performance motors, is supplying one of its Formula 1 engines to a team hoping to set a 1,000mph (1,609kph) land-speed record in Bloodhound SSC (for super-sonic car). It is heartening that even in these straitened times companies are prepared to support bold attempts to push human and technical abilities to new limits. More than 200 other firms will also be helping out.
The Cosworth CA2010 engine would give any car a bit of poke. But alone it is not enough to get the Bloodhound SSC into the record books. Sitting in the centre of the vehicle, the Cosworth engine will run as an auxiliary power unit to operate various systems. This includes delivering hydraulic power to start an EJ200 jet engine from a Typhoon Eurofighter. This will quickly propel the car to more than 200mph, at which point the third engine will be ignited: a novel hybrid rocket, fitted below the jet.
The rocket has been designed by Daniel Jubb, a 26-year-old rocketeer. It uses a rubber-based solid fuel, which burns only when it is oxidised in the presence of a catalyst and a substance called High Test Peroxide (HTP), a concentrated form of hydrogen peroxide. The Cosworth engine will also pump the HTP into the rocket. It has to deliver 800 litres of the stuff in just 20 seconds, and withstand 3G of acceleration forces for 40 seconds. In an F1 car the engine would have to endure maximum forces for just three or four seconds, but Cosworth reckons it will be up to the job.
With all three engines flat out, Bloodhound SSC should go through the sound barrier as it passes 750mph and then complete a measured mile at 1,000mph. The car will be stopped with the help of airbrakes and parachutes, cooled, refuelled and prepared for another run in under 60 minutes. The record is judged as the average speed of two runs in opposite directions held within an hour. According to their calculations, the Bloodhound team hope to reach a top speed of 1,050mph.
An impressive mock-up of the car has been built and, with the overall design now fixed, the actual vehicle will start to take shape at the Bloodhound team’s HQ in a borrowed warehouse in the historic dockside area of Bristol. The team is led by Richard Noble, who set the land-speed record at 633mph in Thrust 2 in October 1983. Mr Noble then went on to manage the Thrust SSC, which was driven by Andy Green, an RAF pilot. This car was the first to break the sound barrier, and the 763mph averaged by Wing Commander Green at Black Rock Desert, Nevada, in October 1997 remains the record. If all goes to plan, Wing Commander Green will attempt the 1,000mph record at Hakskeen Pan in South Africa’s Northern Cape in the summer of 2012.
Before that, though, an extensive period of fund-raising, construction and testing will have to be completed. Somewhat unusually for a team planning to set a new world record, all the technical details of the Bloodhound SSC are being published online, including engineering debates over the design of parts of the car. The reason for this is that the project is also being used as an education programme with some 4,000 schools taking part. The idea is to stimulate interest in science and engineering among pupils. Speed freaks should have a field day too with all the information, especially as Cosworth will be using its electronics systems to transmit 500 channels of data from Bloodhound SSC, and making it live on the internet. Babbage will be following the exploits.