Page last updated at 09:29 GMT, Sunday, 23 August 2009 10:29 UK

Bloodhound diary: Pressure builds

RAF fighter pilot Andy Green intends to get behind the wheel of a car that is capable of reaching 1,000mph (1,610km/h). Powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, the Bloodhound car will mount an assault on the land speed record.

Wing Cmdr Green is writing a diary for the BBC News Website about his experiences working on the Bloodhound project and the team's efforts to inspire national interest in science and engineering.

Andy Green in Diamond Valley
Diamond Valley is too soft in places for Bloodhound

Bloodhound circulates a weekly update of activities around the team, so that we can all keep up to speed with this fast-moving programme.

In one of July's updates, Dr Ben Evans described progress in shaping the car as "exciting stuff". Imagine being the first person in the world to develop a shape that will accelerate from 0 to 1,000 mph in less than 50 seconds, and stay on the ground throughout (I'm very keen on this bit) - I'd call that exciting stuff too!

We're also working hard to keep everyone on the outside up to date with the story as it unfolds. One of the problems that we have is knowing when we've found a shape that is "good enough" to do the job.

Should we take the first shape that provides a solution, or keep looking for better, more stable and faster aerodynamic packages?

We could keep refining this for years, without ever building anything, which is clearly not the idea.

Cockpit visulaisation
The office: How the Bloodhound cockpit could look

However, if we fix the shape too soon and it's not quite right, we'll only find out in 18 months' time, when we run it - and the whole world will judge us on the results if we're wrong.

No pressure there, then - but if this was easy, then everyone would be doing it. My guess? I think we are close to a solution that will work. I'll let you know when the rest of the team agrees with me.

While it's too early to design the cockpit yet, we are producing an engineering mock-up, so that we can start testing the control software and systems. This is going to be a complicated car, operating at the limits of technology, and we're planning on three computers to monitor and control jet, rocket, hydraulics, etc.

Lots of things to go wrong and lots to test - so this is the safest way to do it. I'm excited about the mock-up cockpit - it will be the first look at something "real" and will be a great tool for us to develop the final version.

It's also going to be a great way to show people what the car will be like to drive - a cross between a race car and a spaceship!

Surface search

Another major step forward is in the car's software programming. Dr John Davis (senior engineer control systems) has managed to recreate Ron Ayers' (chief aero engineer) performance calculations in the car's software programme.

This is great news for two reasons. First, it gives an independent check on Ron's modelling - apparently, this car really is going to do 1,000mph! Second, it means that the car can predict acceleration distances, rocket firing points, parachute deployment speeds, etc, which is going to make my life a whole lot easier.

Andy Green with Ed Shadle
With Ed Shadle: Bloodhound is confident and open

Twelve years ago, in Thrust SSC, I had to do all these sums in my head. In Bloodhound SSC, I'm just not going to have the time. John Davis is also reconstructing some of the suspension data from Thrust SSC, to give us an idea of how the car coped with small bumps on the desert surface.

Now we just need to choose a desert where we can run Bloodhound SSC, and then laser map it so that we can build a suspension to cope. I've just returned from a week in the US, spectating at Bonneville Speed Week (as you can guess from the name, it's the world's largest speed meet) and scouting some more deserts for Bloodhound.

We had a look at Newfoundland Basin (a huge salt pan in Utah, near Bonneville) and Diamond Valley in southern Nevada.

Newfoundland Basin is very hard salt, like Bonneville, which is not the right surface for our metal wheels. It's also surrounded by soft mud, making it very difficult to get to (we even managed to get stuck on our quadbike - a small moment of marital tension ensued as my wife Emma waded out of the mud).

Diamond Valley is an alkali (mud) playa, like the South African site, but it's too soft in places for Bloodhound SSC's six-tonne mass. However, it could be used for "slow speed" runs (say up to 600mph).

Friendly rivalry

Our US competition (Ed Shadle) is considering it for some test runs of his jet car, so I gave him all the details of how to get there and what to look for. Record breaking is a great sport - we can share everything with the competition (and the public, of course), as it won't make any difference to the final result - we're still going to beat them!

While we were at Bonneville, Emma decided to have a go at land speed racing, to find out what it was all about. Watching her prepare to drive reminded me of how physically hard this sport is - I haven't driven here for several years and it's easy to forget.

Emma Green
Mrs Green shows her husband how it's really done

Emma had to struggle into protective clothing (fireproof underwear, a five-layer fireproof overall, fireproof gloves and boots, a full-face helmet and neck restraint) and was then strapped down with a five-point race harness and arm restraints into a cramped cockpit in the searing heat (35C outside, perhaps 50-60 C in the cockpit).

Unsurprisingly, she was more than a little nervous. It made me think about just how hot and uncomfortable Bloodhound is going to be and, being strapped into a car that will do OVER 1,000MPH.

I think I'm going to be a little bit nervous as well. I'm going to need a lot of physical and mental preparation over the next 12 months or so, to get ready to drive the world's fastest car.

And now I've got to perform - Emma drove flawlessly at Bonneville, completing three runs and coming within a few miles per hour of a class record on her last run - so I've got no excuses!

Bloodhound SSC
1. Titanium or composite wheels - rear wheels sit outside bodywork, front wheels are steerable to comply with land speed rules
2. Driver sits behind front wheels and in front of engine air intake duct
3. Carbon fibre and titanium bodywork for optimum aerodynamic performance, reaching top speed over 4.5 miles. Same distance required for stopping
4. Bloodhound powered by Eurofighter jet engine with hybrid rocket attached, enabling car to accelerate from 0-1,050mph in 40 seconds
5. Fins maintain stability and downforce to keep car on the ground
6. Air brakes slow car at highest speeds; parachutes slow car at mid-speeds; finally, driver halts car with carbon fibre brakes

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