Supersonic Car Aims to Destroy the Land-Speed Record, Top 1,000 MPH

By Eliza Strickland | October 23, 2008 2:33 pm

Bloodhound carEngineers have unveiled designs for a rocket- and jet-powered car that they say could bust the land-speed record wide open, potentially traveling faster than 1,000 miles per hour. The vehicle, called the Bloodhound SSC, is being designed by the same team that built the first car to ever break the sound barrier, the Thrust SSC, which clocked in at 763 mph when it zoomed across Nevada’s Black Rock desert in 1997. That vehicle currently holds the land-speed record.

The 42-foot long Bloodhound will be powered by an “exotic combination” of jet, rocket, and piston-engine power…. From what we understand, the rocket’s charged mainly with propelling the car to high speeds. Though it’s good for that, it’s unable to hold selected speeds, hence the addition of a Eurojet EJ200 jet engine kicks in. The piston engine? We hear the 800-hp V-12 engine serves mostly as an auxiliary power source and a fuel pump [Automobile].

The supersonic vehicle will run into difficulties that drivers of the fastest sports cars can’t even imagine. “Once you start [to] go beyond the speed of sound…a big pressure wall builds up in front of you,” says [Bloodhound engineer] Ben Evans…. The vehicle no longer cuts smoothly through the air – instead it barges it out of the way and creates a shockwave, he says. That shockwave creates the characteristic sonic boom of supersonic aircraft, and their behaviour in air is well understood after 60 years of breaking the sound barrier. But no-one has ever produced a sustained “sonic boom” so close to the ground [New Scientist].

Because no existing wind tunnel can reproduce such conditions, the engineers will have to rely on computer simulations to predict how those shock waves interact with both the Bloodhound and the surface it’s driving over. The team hopes to test out their vehicle in the real world in stages; they’re aiming to build the vehicle and push it past 800 mph in 2009, and to gradually go from there to the ultimate goal of topping 1,000 mph in 2011.

Image: Bloodhound SSC

MORE ABOUT: cars, land-speed record

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