In a suburb of Bristol, in western England, not far from the Welsh border, a band of engineers are building a machine that they hope will make the biggest jump in the century-long history of the official world land-speed record, taking it from a smidgen above the speed of sound to 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) per hour. That’s roughly the cruising speed of a fighter aircraft, but it’s considerably harder to achieve at ground level, where the atmosphere is far thicker. And there’s the not-insignificant danger that the vehicle will end up plowing into the ground. ... Even in the complicated business of breaking such speed records, Bloodhound represents a remarkable array of firsts in terms of technology, engineering techniques, and propulsion systems, all set to send the missile-shaped car down a nearly 20-km-long racetrack in the South African desert toward the end of this year. Perhaps the most striking of those firsts is the project’s method of verifying the safety of the design. To a degree that would be unthinkable today, earlier record attempts relied on overengineering, best-guess estimates, intuition, and sheer luck. Earlier generations of engineers would often discover a car’s limits with destructive testing—running it until it broke. Now modeling and data acquisition, the preferred tools for designing both aircraft and cars, are making headway in this most extreme of sports. Bloodhound is the first project of its kind to apply them. By the time the car makes its great bid for the record in South Africa, it will have done the run 1,000 times in silico. ... Take the wheels, for example. They will be the fastest-turning wheels in the world. And when the car is traveling at 1,600 km/h, material on the rim of a wheel will experience about 50,000 g’s.
It's a cloudy morning in August 2014 and, on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Avonmouth near Bristol, a team of engineers is at work on Thrust's successor. The car, Bloodhound SSC, marks a bold attempt to set a new Land Speed Record of 1,609kph (1,000mph) by 2016. If successful, it will not only mark the biggest jump in land-speed history, but will also be the culmination of a decade-long experiment in education and open engineering. ... "People ask me if Andy has an ejector seat," Chapman says, running his hand over the carbon-fibre monocoque that forms the car's cockpit and air intake for the jet engine. "He doesn't, because nobody has designed an ejector seat that can operate at Mach 1.4. If you ejected into the jet stream at 1,000mph, around 12 tonnes of force per square metre will hit you. This is the safest place for him to be." ... he MoD granted Bloodhound three EJ-200 test engines used for the Eurofighter development programme. As a result, 5,670 British secondary schools are now linked to the Bloodhound Education Project. A dedicated team runs workshops in which children can learn about physics and the car's engineering: Heathland School in Middlesex has managed to get a model rocket car to 462kph. Around the same time, Noble also decided to make Bloodhound open source, allowing anyone to download and critique the car's design plans. And, during the record attempts in 2015 and 2016, 12 cameras and more than 300 mounted sensors will stream live footage and data from the car, which anyone can follow online.