The Bloodhound attacked the speed of sound in October

© Bloodhound SSC

In 1898, Gaston de Chasseloup-laubat high school was the speed of 63.15 km/h at the edge of his Jeantaud (in the name of its creator Charles Jeantaud). He thus establishes the first speed record land registered. Since then, the technology has evolved and the records were sprayed one after the other. 205 km/h for the Stanley Rocket in 1906, 485 km/h for the Blue Bird in 1935, until the Spirit of America, the first land vehicle to exceed the speed of sound with a 1014 km/h in 1965. Today, the record is held by the Thrust SSC, with… 1227.985 km/h in 1997.

With almost 20 years on the clock, this record begins today at date. But its days could well be numbered because there is a new pretender, who hones his performance in behind the scenes for some time already. Christened Bloodhound SSC (Super Sonic Car), this car is going to try to push back its own limits this October.

In the fall of 2017, this monster of power had already reached the 200 mph during a test “ low-speed” at the airport, Cornwall, in the United Kingdom. But in the meantime, the project team had met with several disappointments. Short of funds, the project had to be stopped, but it has now resumed following the redemption by an investor, Ian Warhhurst, in December. A project “commercially viable” according to him : in an interview with the BBC, he said that he hoped that the sponsorship will be sufficient to cover the costs of the project.

After a period of restructuring, the team was thus able to return to work, and set new goals : it is the bar of 500 mph (804.6 km/h), which is now referred to. This test will be conducted on the Hakskeen Pan, a dry lake bed in South Africa.

A first step before the record attempt next year

These tests should allow to collect the necessary data to explode the record in the Thrust SSC in 1997. In fact, the main problem is not the power of propulsion : in 22 years, the technology has evolved considerably, the team has already largely in the theoretical loading capacity necessary. The real challenge lies elsewhere : at these speeds, the slightest problem of stability may have dramatic consequences. These tests at more than 800km/h will therefore be designed to improve the stability of the machine, and to determine the “precise configuration of the engines required to exceed the sound barrier”. In effect, this mark represents the point where the interaction of the wheels with the ground should not be sufficient to ensure its stability, and where the aerodynamic forces should take over.

Andy Green near the Boodhound SSC. © Bloohound

Problem : the wheels should lose grip more quickly than the aerodynamic forces can take over. This will have very real consequences : the loss of initial adhesion and the moment where the aerodynamic forces will be sufficient, the vehicle will be extremely difficult to control. It is in any case the opinion of the pilot of the Royal Air Force Andy Green, who was already at the wheel of the Thrust SSC for the record of 1997.

“At one point, this car will probably give the impression of driving on a layer of ice. It is at this time that we will know if he has been good in the implementation of the car. It will be a very important experience to be able to keep control of the car to its maximum speed “

But reaching this speed is not the only objective of the test : once launched such a missile well beyond the speed of sound, remains to be done to slow down the spacecraft. not a small feat on a vehicle specifically designed to minimize the forces of friction… The Bloohound SSC will, therefore, three braking systems are different.

First of all, brakes in carbon, such as those found on race cars. But this will be more than enough to stop a spacecraft launched at such a speed. The team states on its website that it has learned to its sorrow.

“They do work, just not in these extreme conditions […] – we know, because we tried and that one of them has exploded,”

To help it slow down, these brakes will be assisted by spoilers, such as found in aviation, as well as a set of parachutes that will deploy behind the car.

A maximum speed that should exceed cheerfully record the Thrust SSC if everything goes as planned. A record which, however, is not expected before 2020.