The Bloodhound Project
||14 October 2012 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
Derek Watts (Carte Blanche presenter): "Attempts on the land speed record don't seem to create the media frenzy that Donald Campbell and Bluebird did in the mid-60s."
[Archive] Man 1: To the joy of everybody, a new record was set at 403.1mph.
Derek: "But Bloodhound is about to change all that. That's the name of a project that promises to change this dusty pan [on screen] into the focus of world attention in the next year."
Richard Noble (Bloodhound: Project Director): "Just picture this: you are standing in the middle point of the course and you see this car coming up faster than any jet fighter you've seen, in complete silence... no noise at all because, of course, travelling faster than sound. And you're almost reduced to prayer as this car comes up, because it's coming up at an absolutely impossible speed and then it comes alongside where you're standing. And then of course you get the double bang... boom, boom!... like that."
Richard Noble's passion is speed and this is his project. The Bloodhound supersonic car is designed to reach 1 000mph, or 1 600km/h. That's a lot faster than the speed of sound.
Derek: "In terms of going for a record, what are the restrictions in place?"
Richard: "Basically, the car itself must have four or more wheels and be controlled by the driver. And that's it in terms of design. So it's a wonderful thing; you can do effectively whatever you like, have as many engines as you like, as much power as you like, that's the first thing. And, secondly, the car must make two passes over the measured mile within a period of one hour."
Richard, who took the Land Speed Record in 1983 and kept it until '97, came up with this project three years ago. The driver of his supersonic car will be Andy Green, an officer in the Royal Air Force and the present holder of the record.
Derek: "Richard, what do you look for? I mean, a fighter jet pilot or a top Formula 1 driver?"
Richard: "Well, it's a bit of both actually. What we're looking for is a very, very cool calm person - okay? - who can handle...
Derek: "Calm at 1 000mph?"
Richard: "Very calm... who can handle this technology; somebody who is not going to get emotionally driven into this thing, and somebody who's got the education and so, basically, he fully understands exactly how this car was designed and built. And he's been part of that design team right from the very beginning."
Richard: "We are going to take a low level airspeed record, which is 998mph. We are going to go faster than a jet and that's right way back in the 1920s. The cars were faster than the aeroplanes. So we are kind of putting it all to rights again."
Looking for the perfect track to the run the car is essential to a Supersonic Land Speed Record. The Bloodhound Team went around the world and finally settled on Haksteenpan here in South Africa.
Local pilot Skip Margetts was invaluable in helping find this 20 kilometre stretch.
Derek: "What makes a good site for a record attempt?"
Skip Margetts (Bloodhound South Africa): "It's got to be an incredibly hard surface. This surface as it stands right now will actually take a Boeing 747. You could come and land here, it's hard enough. In fact we have RAF meters for testing the hardness for RAF Harriet jump jets. And we used one of those for testing... and certain parts here on the pan that you can't even get a reading it's so hard; it's as hard as concrete."
Derek: "Let's just try and show you where we are. Here's Kimberly [map on screen], here's Upington... we've travelled about 250km north to this pan, wedged between Botswana and Namibia. And this is where history could be made."
Sylvia Lucas (MEC, Environment & Conservation, Northern Cape): "When I first heard about the Bloodhound Project I really became excited because of my background with the people of the Kalahari, and also because of the spin-offs for the province... for South Africa as a whole if you look into it."
Sylvia Lucas, MEC for Environment and Conservation in the Northern Cape.
Sylvia: "When this project started I had to be worried about the impact on the environment and that's why I also told the people that are working here, 'Don't kill my scorpions that you find here on the sand.' But when we went through the whole scope of the environmental assessment, we found that there is very little that is going to change in terms of the environment. And that is something that we have been quite satisfied with."
Richard: "Last time we did this, it was the Bureau of Land Management in the US. We won a major environmental award. So we'll leave this place cleaner than we found it."
With the provincial government on board, Bloodhound was on its way. The only problem was stones... 21 million square metres of them.
Derek: "Clearing the 20km track of rocks like this has been a daunting task. Wind and even floods have played havoc with the plans, and it's taken more than 300 people over a year to get close to the finish line. For many of them it's their very first job."
Aubrey Mouton (Supervisor): "Around here, mostly we race with horses, so we have horse racing, but the land speed record... this is now the first for us."
Aubrey Mouton, who supervises the stone gangs, believes this record race will put the area on the map.
Derek: " Aubrey , just look out here. Can you imagine a supersonic car doing over a thousand miles per hour on this track?"
Aubrey: "That remains something to be seen... really, if your eye can move that fast. Scary!"
The entire area is almost cleared. Now the wait begins for the rain that will make the surface even harder.
Sylvia: "You know, before this, there was just a few opportunities for people in terms of employment. And the guy that was involved with the project from Bloodhound's side actually went to look up and found that it was a world record for the number of people that were doing this and also the number of stones and other rubble that have been removed from the pan."
Derek: "This is a really a different breed... this is a racing Bloodhound. It's said to be more advanced than the latest spacecraft and, to reach its target velocity, it will be travelling faster than a bullet from a handgun."
Richard: "It's a very, very special design. It really is. Basically the concept of the car is it's a jet on rocket power car. Principally the jet engine is there to do most of the hard work and the rocket is there as a booster. The rocket is actually much bigger and more powerful than the jet."
12.8 metres long, the car will weigh 7.5 tonnes. At top speed, the wheels will have to rotate 170 times a second. Normal wheels with tyres would self-destruct due to the G-forces, so each wheel is engineered from 100kg of aerospace aluminium. These are the fastest wheels ever created.
Derek: "What have you got in terms of an engine?"
Richard: "We've got three EJ 200 engines, which are the Eurofighter engines. These are very early development engines, but absolutely ideal for us. They've got around 20 hours of flying time - we couldn't even afford the fuel for 20 hours of flying time! So that's fine, and then we have a rocket motor and the rocket motor is in development at the moment. To drive the fuel pump of the rocket motor we have a Cosworth Formula 1 engine, and this engine screams away, delivers 800 horsepower, drives the pump, and that pumps a tonne of high-test peroxide through from its tank into the rocket motor in 17 seconds."
Derek: "This is a very minor test in the scale of things, but we are going to take this car down the track at about 250..."
It's all about Richard getting a feel for the surface of the pan.
Richard: 'I'ts very, very smooth here... I could quite easily take my hands off the wheel...."
But that's about an eighth of the speed the Bloodhound will travel covering the measured mile in a mere 3.6 seconds.
Derek: "Bloodhound's not just about breaking records, it's about inspiring young people, about generating a true interest in science, technology and even mathematics."
And in the world of engineering this is truly a first when all the designs and the tests are completely accessible.
This open access, be it on the web site, Facebook or Twitter, becomes an enormous challenge when the car's speeding across the pan. And it's Connor La Grue and Ryan Gould whose headache this will be.
Connor La Grue (Bloodhound Engineering Lead): "The site we're on is remote and the car is moving at 1 000mph at its highest speed, and we want to get 500 channels of data and at least three channels of live video off the car so the kids can join in the whole adventure, the whole experience."
Derek: "So they will actually feel like they are in the car, at the controls during these tests?"
Connor: "They can choose the view they want to watch. They can look at the camera looking back at Andy's face; they can look at his heart rate on the telemetry; they can look at how fast the car is accelerating. It's going to be the most vivid and in-depth experience of them joining in that we could possibly provide."
Ryan Gould (Brand & Communications, MTN): "For us, the technical challenge about being able to track a vehicle travelling at 1600km/h and feed that data, that HD video and telemetry to the guys receiving it as well as the rest of the world, is a massive challenge. And from a cellular data point of view the technology has really only been tested to about the speed of 500km/h, so it's going to be quite an interesting ask to see what we can do at 1600k/h."
It's only next year on the Haksteenpan that an assault on the world Land Speed Record will be made, but the Bloodhound team had a little fun with the a fake news flash announcing their ultimate dream.
Skip: "I watched it in '97 when I was in the UK, before I moved down to South Africa, and thought, 'Wow, what a once-in-a-lifetime project!' And here we are... I never thought I would ever be involved in something as exciting as this... and with the same guys. It's a dream come true."
IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER:While every attempt has been made to ensure this transcript or summary is accurate, Carte Blanche or its agents cannot be held liable for any claims arising out of inaccuracies caused by human error or electronic fault. This transcript was typed from a transcription recording unit and not from an original script, so due to the possibility of mishearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, errors cannot be ruled out.