It is ironic that a Scottish entrepreneur who failed to make a success of two innovative aviation projects has had more success in what many would consider the much riskier world of land-speed record breaking.
A qualified pilot, Richard Noble created ARV Aviation in 1983 to design and build an all-British light aircraft: the Super2, which was powered by a Hewland AE75 three-cylinder two-stroke engine, but only 35 were made before production ceased.
Noble’s next project was to develop the Farnborough F1, a six-passenger single-engine turboprop aircraft designed in 1998 as an air taxi, but it failed to attract investors (although it is now the Kestrel, which is struggling to gain traction under a new venture of Cirrus co-founder Alan Klapmeier).
During this period, Noble pursued a quest to retrieve the World Land Speed record for Britain. His first attempt, called the Thrust 1, was little more than a Rolls-Royce Derwent 8 turbojet bolted to a GKN ladder chassis, which he crashed in March 1977 at RAF Fairford.
Unhurt and undaunted, Noble began work on his next project, and after numerous setbacks he reached 633 mph (1,019kph) driving the Thrust 2 (which was powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon) across the Nevada desert in 1983–regaining the World Land Speed record that Donald Campbell originally won for Britain in July 1964 with his Bluebird car.
In 1997, Noble headed the project to build the Thrust SSC powered by a Rolls-Royce Spey 205, driven by RAF Phantom and Tornado F.3 pilot, Squadron Leader Andy Green, at 763mph (1,228kph), to became the first man ever to exceed the speed of sound at ground level.
In 2008 Noble announced a plan to smash the World Land Speed Record again and, at the same time, inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers with a project christened “Bloodhound SSC.”
His team includes experienced specialists from both the aerospace and automotive industries led by chief engineer Mark Chapman and chief of aerodynamics Ron Ayers. Chapman worked for Boeing’s Propulsion Systems Division, and at Rolls-Royce in Bristol on the STOVL system for the F-35 Lightning II.
Ayers began his career as an engineering apprentice at Handley Page working on Britain’s Victor V-bomber. After gaining a degree in aeronautical engineering, he worked at British Aircraft Corp. (BAC) as an aerodynamicist on the Rapier and Bloodhound surface-to-air missiles. He was also part of the Thrust SSC design team.
The Bloodhound SSC is a jet- and rocket-powered car designed to reach 1,000 mph (1,600 kph). Its 14-meter-long body has two front wheels within the body and two rear wheels mounted externally within wheel fairings. Weighing more than seven tons, its engines will produce more than 135,000 horsepower.
The hybrid vehicle is a mix of Formula 1 racing car and aircraft technology. The front half is a carbon fiber monocoque and the rear a metallic framework and panels like an aircraft. Advanced Composites Group (ACG), one of the Bloodhound’s many sponsors, is providing composite materials, tooling, design and component manufacturing capability for the project. Lockheed Martin UK is providing research and development toward designing the Bloodhound’s wheels.
Approximately half the thrust of the Bloodhound SSC is provided by a Eurojet EJ200 bypass turbofan engine, which also powers the Eurofighter Typhoon. The Cosworth CA2010 auxiliary power unit, a Formula One engine, provides hydraulic services to the car, and drives the rocket oxidizer pump that will supply 800 liters of high test peroxide (HTP) to the rocket in just 20 seconds.
The Bloodhound SSC will carry 963 kg (2,100 pounds) of HTP that will be supplied to the chamber by a high-speed pump based on the design of the Stentor rocket engine, which powered the Blue Steel cruise missile of the 1960s.
A Nammo hybrid rocket, which is likely to have a cluster of four or five motors rather than a single large combustion chamber, will provide a thrust of 123.75 kN (27,500 pounds) which, combined with EJ200, will generate a total thrust of some 212 kN (47,700 pounds).
The design of the cockpit was recently revealed at the Bloodhound Technical Centre at Bristol. The roof of the cockpit has been designed to create a series of shockwaves that will channel the air into the EJ200 engine. If supersonic air reaches the jet engine fan blades, the airflow will break down and the engine will “surge.” This can generate huge changes in pressure that could damage both the engine and car, and hence the car will use the shockwaves over the canopy to slow the airflow from more than 1,000 mph (1,609 kph) to just 600 mph (643 kph) in a distance of around one meter.
In addition to bespoke Rolex analog instruments, Cam Lock will provide the ADOM 9G aircrew oxygen mask that the driver, Wing Commander Andy Green MBE MA RAF, will be wearing. With a mask seal performance under sustained accelerations of up to +9G, it combines the best driver protection features from both motorsport and aerospace.
Farnborough may be the last time that the public has a chance to see the Bloodhound SSC before it is completed and prepared to be transported to the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa were the record attempt will be made in 2016.