How to build a 1,000mph car (by the scientists behind it)

July 22, 2016 by Ben Evans, The Conversation
BLOODHOUND SSC during construction at the Bloodhound Technical Centre, Avonmouth, summer 2015. Credit: Author provided

It was a staggering feat, a car that went faster than the speed of sound. On October 15 1997, Andy Green travelled across the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, in the Thrust SSC at 763.035 mph, or Mach 1.02. Two decades on, that record remains unchallenged. Until now.

Back in 2007, a small team of British engineers headed up by Richard Noble and Andy Green decided to have a pop at the world land speed record once more. This time, their sights were set on 1,000mph. A rocket scientist was brought in to the largest hybrid rocket system ever developed in the UK, a structural engineer was brought in to design the 's internal structure and I was invited to join the team along with Ron Ayers to ensure that this car would, indeed, remain a car and stay firmly planted on the ground. Ron and I would be responsible for the aerodynamic design of the car. It would be called BLOODHOUND.

I must confess that none of us anticipated back then that it would take quite so long to get to this point. Ambitious engineering projects, however, do have a habit of overrunning. This particular one, completely dependent on sponsorship and operating through a major global recession, has been no different.

A leap of faith

So, here we are. We have completed the extensive seven-year design process, including multiple design iterations and optimisation cycles.

We have built the car and revealed the real thing to the world. We have even practised the loading of the car onto the transporter plane soon to take us to our high speed test site on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

We have also recently signed a major new sponsorship deal which means that the funding is now in place to start the vehicle testing. We will finally discover whether or not all of our design and modelling work has been correct. This is the moment that the adventure gets real. Did we get it right?

You might be concerned that we are about to attempt a 1,000mph when all of our understanding of the car's aerodynamic behaviour has been done using computer modelling – in a "virtual wind tunnel". We have not done real world wind tunnel testing or rocket sled testing to double check our results. Bear in mind that if we've got this wrong then we could easily generate sufficient lift to project BLOODHOUND SSC skywards. Equally, too much downforce and we might find ourselves with the world's fastest plough.

Back in the 1990s, when computer modelling was the primary tool for the of Thrust SSC, extensive validation of the computer model was undertaken using a scaled model of the car strapped to a rocket sled. Comparison of data originating from the scaled rocket sled model and the computer predictions gave the Thrust SSC engineers the confidence they needed to press ahead and build the car.

This time we are doing things differently. Computational aerodynamic modelling has come so far in the last 20 years that this time around we will be using the car itself to validate the computer model that was used to design it.

But don't worry, we won't be heading out to our test site in South Africa and telling Andy to "put his foot down" straight away. Over the next couple of years, starting with "low speed" runway testing at Newquay's AeroHub in Cornwall we will slowly be increasing the speed of our test runs. The surface of the car itself is covered with about 200 pressure sensors and data from these sensors will be compared with the computer model predictions that were used to design the car in the first place.

Driving through the sound barrier

One of my jobs after each run will be to check this mass of data and help decide whether or not we have the confidence in the computer model to try going a little faster on the next run. Of course, my hope will be that the computer model predictions and the car's sensor data track neatly next to each other as we increase the car's speed. But this is now the real world and there might be times when we have to (metaphorically) put on the brakes and ask ourselves some difficult questions. This, perhaps, will require us to tweak the or even tweak the car's design itself.

And we want to keep everyone involved and engaged in this process. All of the data coming from the car's sensors will be made available to the public after every run so that you can help us with this data analysis. We will be streaming the test runs live across the internet so you can follow our progress every step of the way.

The adventure is certainly now getting very real indeed …

Explore further: The world's fastest supersonic car's lift problem fixed

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KelDude
2.1 / 5 (7) Jul 22, 2016
This project is the best example I've seen of a "who cares" story. It's been put in the Science section of BBC News/Science for years and it's about as boring as you can get. Only in Britain is it a popular story. What a waste of screen space.
Steelwolf
5 / 5 (5) Jul 22, 2016
For young folks, perhaps this is boring stuff, but for anyone who watched Blue Flame on it's runs this sort of stuff gets into the blood and stays there. Saw films of the Green Monster and Wingfoot Express, and Craig Breedlove kept coming back out with Spirit of America, and trounced em. Then a five year hiatus and Blue Flame roared onto the scene, and it would be over a decade before Thrust came onto the stage, and then left again having cracked the sound barrier.

On The Ground.

Perhaps it may seem boring to some, but for someone who knows the types of details overcome and how funding can interrupt projects, this is actually good news.
Nik_2213
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2016
IIRC, after SSC's triumph, their US rivals called 'Game Over' and threw in the towel.

Bit like Supermarine sweeping the Schneider Trophy, long, long ago...

Look at it the other way-- The SSC team have developed a superior CFD model, one that can handle *extreme* edge effects. This will be very marketable...
KelDude
4 / 5 (4) Jul 23, 2016
@Steelwolf - I feel your comments were directed at me but I have to tell you I am 67, not a "young folk" and have been deeply interested in everything involving science my entire life. So to say " I don't understand" is way off base. I do understand and still think it's the most boring story on the internet. Boring project, boring stories, that's the bottom line. How about more stuff like SpaceX 1st stage landings, quantum physics, nano technologies etc etc. Simply firing a rocket on wheels is a short boring story being dragged out for years on this site. Enough already.
Dug
5 / 5 (1) Jul 23, 2016
Not sure whether this boring or not. I am concerned that it might be remarkably pointless. Are there any critical demand applications for ground transportation at Mach1-2 speeds? I did find it interesting that the 200 body surface sensors were implied to relate to monitoring the cars lift. While surface sensors might be generally useful to refine drag and speed, I would think suspension sensors would be the most important as to whether the vehicle is gaining lift and leaving the ground. Again, not seeing much application for what is learned. When I see a Yellow Cab or a FedEx truck busting Mach 1 - I might change my mind.
gkam
1.4 / 5 (10) Jul 24, 2016
If the wheels do not drive it, it does not count. It is not a real wheeled vehicle, it is an aircraft on the ground.

And, who cares? Could they have used their money and talents to do something which helps people, instead of just getting attention?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.4 / 5 (7) Jul 24, 2016
And, who cares? Could they have used their money and talents to do something which helps people, instead of just getting attention?
George kamburoff is baiting people again. That hard up for attention george?

You come here just to get attention. If you actually spent your wifes money on PV/EV then you did it so you could brag about it, for attention.

But as the evidence says its a lie, then you lied just to get attention.

Same sick bullshit different day.
Uncle Ira
4.3 / 5 (11) Jul 24, 2016
If the wheels do not drive it, it does not count. It is not a real wheeled vehicle, it is an aircraft on the ground.?
Skippy I thought you had all that "experience" with super duper aircraft for the last 50 years. Is this the kind of aircraft you worked on? The ones with no wings? No wonder nobody ever heard of you.

How you can count him as an aircraft (since he got no wings) but can not count him as a car because he still don't have any wings? That's the sort of "experience" and "senior engineer" stuffs that has everybody thinking you are a "REAL" couyon.
rrrander
5 / 5 (2) Jul 25, 2016
@Steelwolf - I feel your comments were directed at me but I have to tell you I am 67, not a "young folk" and have been deeply interested in everything involving science my entire life. So to say " I don't understand" is way off base. I do understand and still think it's the most boring story on the internet. Boring project, boring stories, that's the bottom line. How about more stuff like SpaceX 1st stage landings, quantum physics, nano technologies etc etc. Simply firing a rocket on wheels is a short boring story being dragged out for years on this site. Enough already.


there is plenty on what you mentioned in here, even Space X and its egomaniac CEO. If you don't like this particular story, skip it.
Macrocompassion
5 / 5 (1) Jul 25, 2016
I often wonder if the designers of this vehicle have taken the wheel dynamics properly into account. There is a real danger of shimmy and to be sure that this is avoided necessitates some wheel stability studies. I have made this point several times on the "Bloodhound" website, to the designers but they have not shown much interest. As a retired landing gear engineer, I could help.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Jul 25, 2016
For the sake of attention Ira is playing his silly semantic games.

Yeah, I worked on some fast aircraft, and around others, the fastest to ever fly. I was a communications tech at the Air Force Flight Test Center. What were you?
Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (8) Jul 25, 2016
Once again, this thread is not about me,


I bet it is.

Yeah, I worked on some fast aircraft, and around others, the fastest to ever fly. I was a communications tech at the Air Force Flight Test Center.


See, I told you.

What were you?
Not running around trying to tell peoples that a thing with no wings but has wheels is an aircraft not a car.
gkam
1 / 5 (7) Jul 25, 2016
Yeah, . . well, I am sure you know more about supersonic aircraft than the rest of us.

Want to see a picture of our NF-104s? We trained the Apollo Astronauts in them.

Rocket engines and extended wingtips and nosecone with attitude thrusters controlled by a right-hand sidestick was what they used, like in the spacecraft.
Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (8) Jul 25, 2016
Once again, this thread is not about me,


You lie again Cher.

Yeah, . . well, I am sure you know more about supersonic aircraft than the rest of us.
I know enough to know not to say something like
It is not a real wheeled vehicle, it is an aircraft on the ground.


Want to see a picture of our NF-104s? We trained the Apollo Astronauts in them.
Did they train with wings or without wings?

Rocket engines and extended wingtips and nosecone with attitude thrusters controlled by a right-hand sidestick was what they used, like in the spacecraft.
Well that is nice, really nice Cher. But what does that have to do with rocket powered cars?

Once again, this thread is not about me,
Once again you lie Cher.
gkam
1 / 5 (6) Jul 25, 2016
Does your car blast extremely-hot and powerful exhaust behind it?

No, it is powered through the wheels. This thing is just a wheeled aircraft without wings of sufficient size to fly. What does it look more like, the F-104 or your Yugo?
Uncle Ira
4 / 5 (8) Jul 25, 2016
No, it is powered through the wheels.
Why does that make a difference, eh?

This thing is just a wheeled aircraft without wings of sufficient size to fly.
Ain't much of the aircraft if it can't fly.

What does it look more like, the F-104 or your Yugo?
I don't know if looks like the F-104 or the Yugo, but if they have wings and can fly, then they are aircrafts. If it don't have wings and can't fly it is not the aircraft. Didn't they teach anything in the Air Forces?
TheGhostofOtto1923
4 / 5 (8) Jul 25, 2016
Yeah, . . well, I am sure you know more about supersonic aircraft than the rest of us
-I think george means him, not us.
Want to see a picture of our NF-104s? We trained the Apollo Astronauts in them
Yup I was right. Otto is always right.
gkam
1 / 5 (7) Jul 25, 2016
"Didn't they teach anything in the Air Forces?"
----------------------------

Yes, they taught us to be kind to those without education or experience in life.

Sorry, I forgot.
Captain Stumpy
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 25, 2016
@KelDude
...have been deeply interested in everything involving science my entire life
this is odd when you then follow with
I do understand and still think it's the most boring story on the internet. Boring project, boring stories, that's the bottom line
taking into consideration the physics behind not only the movement of a ground vehicle at that speed but then also the materials, technique, etc that can also be applied later down the road to (Perhaps) vehicles, mass transit, etc, this is interesting in a lot of ways, IMHO

one more point to consider re: the story- target audience

in our day we watched this stuff on TV, read newspapers or listened to the radio, right?

today's kids don't have the same access to our historical stuff so this is new to them in a lot of ways, and it's also a means to stimulate interest in STEM courses for the sake of science and engineering

and some who remember like the comparisons
Captain Stumpy
4.2 / 5 (5) Jul 25, 2016
Maybe engineers learn stuff from all this frivolousness
@GreenO
Great point... but now lets consider the latest technology we have and apply it to the picture:
not only can we learn new stuff, but we can learn why something did/didn't do something in the past!

this is taking a new look with new tech at an existing problem - with far more sensitive sensors or far greater abilities than the previous tech was able to do

this reminds me of a Youtube inspired study that recently used modern high speed camera's to answer an age old question and re-wrote the physics books on why sodium explodes in water: http://www.nature...161.html

the point being: just because we've done something in the past doesn't mean we can't learn something new today with modern tech & materials
gkam
1 / 5 (7) Jul 25, 2016
This looks more like the F-107 than anything else. Certainly more than an automobile.

The F-107 was a very fast aircraft, the first with a sidestick, but only three were built. Politics.

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