The Bloodhound LSR supersonic car has completed its journey to the Hakskeenpan desert in the Northern Cape of South Africa, in preparation for its high-speed test program.
Having traveled by air freight from Luxembourg to Johannesburg, and then by lorry in a semi-dismantled state, the car was reassembled and fitted with its bespoke solid aluminum wheels before attempting to exceed 500mph (800km/h). The switch from pneumatic tires on its previous test run in the UK also allows the carbon-fiber aerodynamic bodywork to be refitted, including the nose section and tail fin.
Supporting the car is a team of 25, with a 50m2 desert technical camp that includes a workshop, with a lathe, milling machine and welding equipment, all required to maintain and tune its performance. The reconstruction has been completed and the finished car has been unveiled. The target is to build speed in increments of 50mph (80km/h) and exceeding 500mph within five weeks.
Bloodhound LSR driver, and current holder of the World Land Speed Record, Andy Green said, “After years of work to prepare the car and following almost a decade of preparation of our desert track by the Northern Cape government, we’re delighted to finally be here. The next few weeks will allow us to test the car and train the team, ready for our assault on the Outright World Land Speed Record next year.”
It’s the first time the car has been seen with its machined solid aluminum wheels, made specially to withstand the stresses of traveling at supersonic speeds. For this first test session, the wheels will be tested at over 500mph.
The high-speed tests will see the Bloodhound LSR car blasting along the Hakskeenpan desert racetrack for the very first time.
The world’s fastest straight-line car, powered by a state-of-the-art EJ200 Eurofighter Typhoon jet engine, was rolled out at the Bloodhound Technical Camp on the edge of the desert, and presented to Dr Zamani Saul of the Northern Cape Provincial Government.
Slowing down to go faster
One of the key objectives of the high-speed testing program is, counterintuitively, to evaluate how the car behaves when slowing down and stopping from a number of target speeds. Only once engineers and driver Andy Green are satisfied they understand the drag and stopping ability of the car will they push to the next run profile, building speed in each run by increments of 50mph.
The Bloodhound LSR team will examine how much drag the car creates in a number of scenarios and at various speeds, using the wheel brakes, one or both of the drag parachutes, and with the giant airbrakes locked into position.
Data from 192 pressure sensors on the car will be monitored and compared against the predicted CFD models to ensure they marry up. Bloodhound’s engineers will be working with assistant professor Ben Evans and Jack Townsend, from Swansea University in the UK, to check the data, which will reveal the amount of drag experienced by the car on each run. This data is critical to determine the size of the rocket that will be fitted to the car for the attempt to set a new World Land Speed Record in 12-18 months’ time.
Mark Chapman, Bloodhound LSR engineering director, said, “Newquay was all about getting up to speed and finding out how quickly we could get the engine to full power and accelerate using max reheat. Andy was on the throttle for two seconds to reach 200mph (322km/h) in eight seconds. Here at the Hakskeenpan on a 10 mile (16km) track, we can accelerate for much longer, achieve higher speeds, and investigate the car’s stability, performance and drag, all crucial as we move toward setting a new world land speed record.”
A rocky road made smooth thanks to teamwork
The Bloodhound LSR team is incredibly grateful to the Northern Cape Provincial Government and members of the local Mier community, who undertook the painstaking process of removing 16,500 tons of rock from 22 million square meters of dry lakebed to ensure the Bloodhound car can run smoothly and safely.
It’s the largest area of land ever cleared by hand for a motorsport event, and testament to the partnership forged between all three groups. This feat was recognized by the FIA in 2016 with the award of special certificates and medals for the 317 workers.
Dr Zamani Saul, premier of the Northern Cape, said, “The people of the Northern Cape Province and I are sure the rest of the country and continent is in full support of the Bloodhound land speed record project and we are honored that you have chosen and partnered with the Northern Cape for this historical event. As this administration, we have articulated a vision of a modern, growing and successful province and this can only be attained by attracting stakeholders to invest in key sectors of the province.
“This will enable us to tackle challenges of underdevelopment, unemployment and poverty. Events such as these have the potential to contribute to much-needed job creation and skills development, as well as infrastructure development for the surrounding communities. We are therefore grateful for the direct socio-economic spin-offs of the project and trust that the province will only benefit from the exposure that it is receiving. I want to wish everyone involved the best for the completion of this project and I can give you the assurance that we share in your excitement as you embark on these first test runs here in Hakskeenpan. The Northern Cape is known for setting landmark firsts and may this attempt at setting a new land speed record run smoothly and with great success.”
Pioneering cutting-edge innovation
One of the most cutting-edge pieces of technology employed by the Bloodhound team in the desert will be the low-power wide area network (LPWAN) IoT remote sensor array. Remote microclimate weather stations will be sited every 1km along the 16km track. These are battery-powered devices that record wind speed, gust speed, wind direction, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. Since they send back data over a wireless network they can be located anywhere and still operate, which is crucial in the desert with very little infrastructure.
Data is transmitted from the IoT sensor stations via a low power, long-range radio network to a specially made data platform created by tech innovation company Digital Catapult, which converts the data into relevant and usable information used to understand changes in the weather that may affect the car.
This is vital in keeping Andy Green and the Bloodhound car safe. Cross winds in particular will affect the stability of the car at such high speeds.
Peter Karney, Digital Catapult spokesperson, explained, “The car is aiming to go faster than any other land-based machine built thus far. At the speeds hoped for, unexpected cross wind could significantly affect the stability and direction of the vehicle and are therefore a key decision point on when to run the car. We will be measuring and storing accurate data at 1km points along the track and therefore this info can be used by the team to plan the run.”