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Land speed record holder straps in for round two

Green machine: Bloodhound is on the land speed record’s scent.

Fastest person on earth Andy Green has something very special in store for 2016


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25 Jul 2013

LAND speed record holder Andy Green is hoping to inspire a generation with a rocket-powered extreme machine that will crack 1600km/h and burn more than 400 litres of fuel per minute.

His ‘car’, called the Bloodhound, will combine a hybrid rocket, a Typhoon jet engine and a formula one V8 to produce a scarcely-believable 100,000kW of power.

The aim? To smash his own 16-year old world record of 1228km/h with another high-speed run to be streamed live around the globe. Mr Green will make the attempt in 2016, in a dried-up South African lake bed.

But that’s only half the tale.

It might not sound very environmentally friendly, but the ex-RAF ace also wants his triple-engined monster to inspire a new generation of engineers and scientists to push the envelope.

“Bloodhound is not just about breaking a record. It’s about going to the limit of technology as an adventure, an adventure we could share with a global audience,” said Mr Green in an interview with us in Sydney earlier this week.

“Bloodhound is feeding in to the long-term requirement for kids to think about science and technology and what it means to the world that they will inhabit in the future because we are going to need at least some of them to start designing, building and maintaining that world.

“Having a really big crash will get us a lot of hits on YouTube, but it won’t have the desired effect of getting kids excited about design and engineering.” Here are some mind-bending statistics to ponder.

The hybrid rocket motor requires a delivery pump capable of filling a bathtub in just three seconds, and requires a 600kW Cosworth Formula One engine to drive it.

Furthermore, at full speed the car is subjected to 20-tons of drag. This means if you were to turn the engines off at top speed, the car would confront a rate of deceleration three-times the force of gravity.

Even something as simple as a wheel becomes a huge engineering challenge when traveling at record-breaking speed. The precision-forged aluminium units have no tyres, spin at 10,000 revolutions per minute and are subjected to 50,000 times the force of gravity.

So how does Mr Green justify building a car that uses 400 litres of fuel in under a minute, in an age when so much importance is put on fuel efficient vehicles? “A full power burn of our rocket generates the same carbon footprint as 5000 people charging their mobile phones overnight. 5000 people charging their phones aren’t likely to change the future of education. Firing that rocket a few times could,” he said.

Before the main event, Mr Green’s team will conduct a preliminary run in 2015, with the aim of gathering vital data to fine-tune the car before returning in 2016 for the real deal.

But the man at the centre of the action explained there is much more to breaking the record than just building a fast car. Half the challenge is putting on a show to match the spectacular ‘go’.

The record attempt will be streamed live from South Africa via a multitude of cameras – an enormous technical challenge considering the mechanical extremes at play.

“We are going to be running live video from 16 different cameras on the car. This is technically nearly as hard as building the car in the first place,” said Mr Green.

But the challenge only grows from there. One of the team’s sponsors projects a staggering three billion people will watch this feed, and there is a real risk such a load of demand could overwhelm and crash South Africa’s internet infrastructure.

This puts a rather modern spin on the term ‘crash’ – never a desirable term in the context of land speed record attempts. But, says Mr Green, no dilemma is insurmountable, and the team has a way around it.

“We will take the signal off the car 16km away, boost the gain to capture the video, feed it back and then bounce it all the way down to the fibre-optic link 200 kilometers south, then it has to go off-shore from South Africa in to the cloud globally so that it can then come back online.

“If we try and run it from the South African web server we will crash the national internet infrastructure.” Mr Green went on to explain to us more of the specifics of the planned record run. Even something as basic as a timing gate becomes massively complicated when dealing with the speeds Bloodhound will travel at, he said.

Under normal circumstances the time-keeper’s lights would be around 30 meters apart wide but, to avoid hitting equipment at high speed, Mr Green is insisting the gate will be more than 15-times wider.

Mr Green will rely on his experience of high speeds and as an RAF safety expert to identify risks, with the only solid object on the 20 kilometer track to be the timing lights.

“500 meters is beyond the capability of a simple light beam so they’re using a pulse laser with a buried battery and, at the other end, a receiver attached to a GPS clock,” he said.

“When the clock stops receiving its pulses it will transmit the time to a millionth of a second on the wireless network – you can’t use wires because they might not be long enough to keep them out of the shock-wave effects.” Trying to go faster than any human has gone before has inherent dangers, but things have come a long way since the record was set, said Mr Green.

“Looking back there were a few things I wish I had known about SSC, which now we do know. I think Bloodhound will be a much nicer car to drive and, in terms of the safety margins, we can predict and monitor, in real time, an awful lot more safety parameters.

So what more is there to ask the official fastest person on earth? A man who still supports global operations in the RAF for a day-job, flies aerobatics on the weekend to keep himself “sane” and professes his desire to change the shape of education as we know it? There can be only one: his daily drive is a humble Volkswagen Golf GTI.

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