Here is an article at The Economist on the Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car) land speed record project. The Bloodhound SSC will reportedly travel at 1050 mph (1690 kph). FYI: Sound speed at sea level is 768 mph (1236 kph, 343.2 m/s or 1126 ft/s).
Daniel Jubb is an impressive man. (Also see bio here.) He is a 27 year old, self-made British rocket scientist who has his own rocket manufacturing company that he started with his grandfather, Sid Guy, and that he runs from his parents’ home. He got interested in rockets at the age of 10 when he got a model rocket kit. Since then he has been building and testing rockets. Finally he turned his hobby into a company. His rocket company “The Falcon Project Ltd now designs and manufactures custom solid, liquid and hybrid propellant rocket systems at facilities in the US and UK, with applications ranging from mine disposal and target drones to high altitude research rockets” and apparently they supply rockets to the US Military and builds satellite launch vehicles. Wow.
Since 2005, Jubb has been a part of the Bloodhound SSC project (original website here). What is the Bloodhound SSC? They are the newest entrant to the Land Speed Record challenge, the top spot being occupied since 1997 by the British team Thrust who went supersonic in a car with twin turbofan engines. Most of the Thrust team members are now on the Bloodhound project, including the pilot Andy Green.
The BH SSC has three engines. A 2.4 litre Cosworth F1 V8 gasoline engine producing 750 hp (560 kW) is used as the auxiliary power unit for electrical and hydraulic power and to drive the oxidiser pump for the rocket. A Eurojet EJ200 jet engine, developed for the Eurofighter and saved from burial in a museum and donated to the project, will accelerate the car from 0 to 300 mph (480 km/h), and beyond using afterburner. The third is a hybrid rocket engine designed specially by Daniel Jubb, which will boost the car up to 1,000 mph (1,600 km/h) and beyond. This hybrid rocket (solid fuel + liquid oxidizer) is really amazing, read up on it here. It uses hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB) as fuel. HTPB is a synthetic rubber used to make aircraft tires. The oxidizer is high-test peroxide (HTP) which is concentrated hydrogen peroxide H2O2 (86% in water).
At the top of the hybrid combustion chamber (of the rocket) is the catalyst pack which contains 80 silver plated nickel mesh discs; these decompose the HTP into steam and oxygen. The decomposition generates a temperature of around 600°C – enough to spontaneously ignite the solid fuel grain. This simplifies the engine by removing the need for a separate ignition system.
The liquid oxidizer gives them the ability to throttle or turn off the rocket as desired. Pure solid fuel rockets do not have this ability. Note also that Virgin Galactic also uses the same hybrid rocket system for their space program.
The Bloodhound SSC rocket chamber has a target specific impulse of 200 s. They reached 230 s in tests. In addition to practical and live experimentation, they are also employing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to study flow, mixing, aerodynamics, heat transfer and of course, combustion.
This LSR attempt, which will probably only happen in 2012, is such a significant step over the last record by Thrust SSC at 763 mph (31%) that neither the Bonneville Saltflats in Utah or the Black Rock Desert in Nevada are big enough for the course. They are opting for a larger expanse of flat land at the Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape in South Africa.
There is always the question, “Why waste money on a rocket car?” First, fun and adventure are more than enough reasons. But in every one of these endeavors, there are many things we could learn. There are arrays and arrays of sensors being monitored in real time and data and video are stored for analysis. Myriad technologies and systems are being tested on this platform. Who knows what spin-off technologies and new industries could come out of what was once considered mere “play”? Then, most importantly, this adventure is a great opportunity to inspire young people to study math, science and engineering. I lost count of the number of engineers on this project, not forgetting two universities involved as well. There is a whole team dedicated to spreading the news to schools and getting children involved. Intel and Cisco are also on the sponsors list as are Lockheed Martin UK, Tektronix, MathWorks (Matlab) and over a hundred others. But anyone can donate and become a member of the 1K Club. Donations start at £10 and you could get your name inscribed on the tail fin. You could also tune in to their Youtube channel. There are numerous ways to get involved.
The more private people are involved in jets and rockets, the better it is for the aerospace industry and especially for the space program now that NASA has retired all the shuttles. We need to get back to space asap and private players are the ones who can do it.