Page last updated at 16:09 GMT, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Bloodhound diary: On a roll

Andy Green (Bloodhound SSC)

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.

The ‘Big’ Falcon rocket firing for the first time (Bloodhound SSC)
The Falcon rocket firing for the first time

Hurray - it works! After several months of problems (this is what "Engineering Adventure" actually means when you're developing new technology), we finally achieved our first firing of the full-size hybrid rocket. It was worth the wait - everything worked perfectly.

I have to admit to being a tiny bit relieved.

I don't know that much about hybrid rocket technology and, after mentioning in my last entry that we're going to be feeding the equivalent of 100 coke-bottle bombs into the rocket every second, I was slightly worried in case it really did blow up.

In just over a year's time, I have to strap myself to one of these things - so I'm really, really glad that it worked first time.

The rear of a Typhoon (Bloodhound SSC)
Engineering director John Piper inspects the business end of the EJ200

I went out to South Africa again this month, with John Piper (Bloodhound engineering director) for a final look at Verneuk Pan.

After this visit, we were going to complete the comparison with US and Australian deserts and choose our run site - or so I thought.

However, I've just received some new data on a desert that we'd previously discounted, which might be ideal for us after all. We've got a local survey team there right now. Is this the answer to our 18-month long search for a desert? And where is it? You'll have to wait until our press conference in the coming weeks to find out!

Everyone we met in South Africa was excited to hear about our 1,000mph car, which gave John Piper a couple of very quiet moments. Something wrong? "No," he said, "but I'm starting to realise how much this means to everyone, and now we've got to deliver."

It was 12 years ago this month that we set the current land speed record in Thrust SSC. It's high time for another one, and now we've got the chance to inspire a generation of school children through our Bloodhound Education Programme. So John's right: we've got to deliver.

I took the design office team up to RAF Coningsby this month to see the EJ200 - Bloodhound SSC's jet engine - in its normal environment, in a Typhoon aircraft.

As well as seeing the EJ200 running, we wanted to do some noise tests with our comms equipment, and talk about EJ200 operations. After a great day out (thank you, XI Squadron) we can't wait for the day when we start running our own engine in Bloodhound.

Computer modelling of the new body shape (Bloodhound SSC)
Computer modelling of the new body shape

We're still working on refining the shape of the car, to make it stay on the ground (the most important bit, from my point of view!) and to keep the drag low enough to achieve 1,000 mph (the next most important bit).

It's a little disappointing that, despite a year's work and using the largest computer clusters in the world, we're not quite there yet. Still, if this was easy, everyone would be doing it.

Team principal Richard Noble and I were in the City last week, meeting a friend of mine (who is also the managing director of a big City firm). He made an interesting comment - we were looking and sounding so much more confident than a year ago, when we last met him.

On reflection, I'm not surprised. We're testing the big rocket, fixing the final shape of the car, choosing the desert run site and about to move into the Bloodhound Technology Centre to start building the car. We should be sounding confident about our Engineering Adventure - it's all starting to come together.

Bloodhound SSC
1. Titanium or composite wheels - rear wheels sit outside bodywork covered by aerodynamic fairings
2. Driver sits behind front wheels and in front of engine air intake duct
3. Carbon fibre 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 wheel brakes

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