Bloodhound: Beyond the Speed of Sound

During tests in South Africa, the Bloodhound supersonic car has reached its fastest speed to date, blasting to an incredible 628 mph. The unique pencil-shaped car, powered by a rocket engine and a jet engine, is designed to reach speeds of 1,050 mph.

It is being continually developed with the aim of beating the current land speed record of 763 mph, achieved on 15th October 1997 by RAF pilot Andy Green, in a supercar known as the Thrust SSC. The Bloodhound aims to go beyond the speed of sound and smash the current record.


Sonic boom

When a vehicle of any kind exceeds the speed of sound, it is “supersonic”. When an object moves through the atmosphere, it disturbs the air and this disturbance is transmitted at the speed of sound.

Breaking the speed of sound, which is around 761 mph, has some interesting effects. A vehicle breaking the speed of sound creates a noise called a “sonic boom” – a loud crack. Even a bullwhip can create the same effect on a quieter scale – anything moving faster than 761 mph produces a distinct crack.

The Bloodhound is being further developed with the goal of breaking the land speed record by 33%, the largest ever margin. Filmed on 5th November 2019, when it had just reached the milestone of travelling at almost 500 mph, just 11 days later, on 16th November, the Bloodhound reached its fastest speed to date, while being driven across Hakskeen Pan – a stretch of desert in South Africa.

When next year’s record-breaking bid takes place, the existing record holder, Andy Green, is set to be driving.


Project launch

The project was announced in October 2008 at the Science Museum in London by Lord Paul Drayson, who was the UK Minister of Science at the time. Originally, the project was fully based in the one-time Maritime Heritage Centre at Bristol harbour.

Construction of the vehicle remained in Bristol when the head office of the programme moved to Didcot in Oxfordshire in 2015. The car then moved to SGS Berkeley Green University Technical College in Gloucestershire in March 2019. Test runs began in October on ten miles of track at Hakskeen.

Bloodhound is designed to accelerate from 0 to 1,000 mph in 42 seconds. The force on the driver will be two-and-a-half times his body weight during acceleration. The car will decelerate using air brakes from 800 mph, parachutes from 600 mph and disc brakes from 250 mph.


Car’s design

The car’s official name is Bloodhound LSR, which stands for “Land Speed Record”. Swansea University’s College of Engineering was involved in the aerodynamic design of the car. To understand the aerodynamic characteristics of the shape, professors Ken Morgan and Oubay Hassan and their team used a system called Computational Fluid Dynamics.

The Bloodhound has a total of three engines – a Eurojet EJ200 jet engine to propel the car to 300 mph; a bespoke hybrid rocket designed by Nammo to give it a further boost to 1,000 mph; and a Jaguar supercharged V-8 engine, which is used to drive the oxidiser pump for the rocket.

Currently the third fastest British car of all time, Bloodhound falls behind the Thrust SSC and its predecessor, the Thrust2, which reached a top speed of 633 mph in 1983, driven by British entrepreneur Richard Noble.


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