Recently, the Bloodhound SSC Show Car was showcased at the Indian Institute of Engineering Science and Technology (IIEST) in Shibpur, Howrah near Kolkata. This visionary science and technology project aims to highlights the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Education imparted in UK’s world-class universities. Jaswant Thandi (Jas to his team members) has been associated with the Bloodhound SSC project for past five years and works as Logistic Support. He has travelled around the UK and abroad giving presentations and talking about the project to various groups and individuals at both public and private events. In a candid chat with autojunction.in, Jas shares the various technological challenges and learnings from the project.
AJ: Tell us about the Bloodhound SSC?
JT: Bloodhound SSC is exactly what it says - a SuperSonic Car that is designed to go faster than the speed of sound. Bloodhound SSC is a jet and rocket powered car designed to go at 1,000 mph (just over 1,600 kmph). It has a slender body of approximately 14m length with two front wheels within the body and two rear wheels mounted externally within wheel fairings. It weighs over 7 tonnes and the engines produce more than 135,000 horsepower - more than 6 times the power of all the Formula 1 cars on a starting grid put together! The Car is a mix of car and aircraft technology, with the front half being a carbon fibre monocoque like a racing car and the back half being a metallic framework and panels like an aircraft.
AJ: What are the safety measures in this car? Do you have an ejector seat like you'd find in an aircraft?
JT: Our early simulation work suggests that we will be able to get Bloodhound SSC up to 1000 mph in 4.5 miles. This leaves us with a problem – we need to safely bring the car to halt (still weighing over 5 tonnes empty) from 1000 mph in just 4.5 miles. And just to make this a bit harder, the vehicle has been designed to be as low-drag as possible.
Up to about 250 mph, ‘conventional’ car disc brakes can be used. These discs will have to endure the same spin speeds of over 10,000 rpm that the wheels will experience, with similarly massive stresses, so they are somewhat different to ‘normal’ car brakes. The Bloodhound SSC solution is multi-plate carbon discs, using aircraft-style circular stators (effectively large circular ‘pads’ to sandwich the disc under braking).
Above 250 mph, however, we have to lose a lot of energy in a short space of time. We considered solutions such as retro-rockets, but they have a number of drawbacks (they would de-stabilise the vehicle, would require a blow-off cover that could then come back and hit the vehicle, could misfire and push the car sideways, etc. None of these things are good). We rapidly settled on 2 robust and independent solutions – airbrakes and drag parachutes.
Airbrakes are a common feature of aircraft, to slow them down from high speed, and are mechanically simple to operate. They have also been around for a long time in the Land Speed Record world.
The problem with airbrakes is that to stop Bloodhound SSC in the required distance, the airbrakes would virtually have to double the cross-sectional area (and therefore drag) of the car, which is technically quite challenging! Hence we are including the largest airbrakes that we can, to minimise our reliance on parachutes and to reduce the length of the safety overrun at the ends of the track, in case the parachutes fail.
Brake parachutes have also been around for a long time, in both aerospace and vehicle applications. Everything from Thrust SSC to the Space Shuttle has used them to slow down. Besides, we have several sensors in the car to ensure optimum safety.
However, the car doesn't have an ejector seat because we strongly feel that in the occasion of a mishap, the best place for Andy Green (who will be piloting this car to the Land Speed Record) is to remain inside the cockpit of the Bloodhound SSC.
AJ: You've broken the sound barrier on land before. How do the handling characteristics of the vehicle change as you approach Mach 1? Does it smoothen out immediately once you're past the sound barrier?
JT: It’s a little too premature to answer this. We have been testing the Bloodhound SSC at various speed levels to understand how the car handles. However, presently the car is only 55 per cent complete and a final conclusion about its handling characteristic cannot be arrived at just as yet. We expect the Bloodhound SSC to be ready by July 24, 2015 after which we will test the car to speed upto 200 mph during July-August 2015. Following that, we will head to South Africa in October 2015 when we will take the car upto speed of 800 mph. We will gather all the information and head to the UK for fine tuning the car before we attempt to achieve the 1000 mph by October 2016.
To answer your second question, I have learnt from my interaction with Andy Green (based on his passed experience) that the car will smoothen out after breaking the sound barrier.
AJ: Compared to an aircraft, does Bloodhound SSC need more or less power to reach 1000 mph / 1600 kmph considering there is drag and resistance from the surface also?
JT: The Bloodhound SSC naturally requires more power to achieve to reach 1000 mph in comparison to an aircraft simply because at ground level the air is thicker. However, bear in mind that the Bloodhound SSC will be faster than any aircraft in the world at ground level.
AJ: Apart from this project being a technological showpiece, what are the learnings that can be transcribed to real-world, everyday vehicles?
JT: Bloodhound SSC Engineering Adventure Project is primarily focused on establishing UK’s global reputation for excellence in the field of education, skills, science and innovation. The UK has a strong tradition in offering world-renowned STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) education. Universities in the UK are committed to delivering excellent research expertise. Around 5,600 UK schools and universities are involved in the Bloodhound SSC project. We want to use this project as a platform to inspire students to come to the UK and pursue higher education.
Breaking the Land Speed Record and everything else is really secondary. However, we intend to share the learnings from this project with everyone across the world so that this can be used for further development in the field of automotive and aeronautics.
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