The Bloodhound Super Sonic Car conducted its first public test run today, rocketing 210 mph (340 km/h) down the runway at Newquay Airport in southwest England. The test was a prelude for the rocket-powered car’s ultimate, record-setting goal: 1,000 mph (1,610 km/h).
But that test, planned for a dry lake bed in South Africa, won’t happen until at least 2020 — though the Bloodhound team said today’s dry run gave them confidence that the car could eventually achieve the goal. Driven by Royal Air Force Wing commander Andy Green, Bloodhound SSC made two trips down Newquay's 1.7-mile (2.7-km) runway. Green is the current holder of the world land speed record, and the first person to break the sound barrier on land.
The car, which mixes technology from F1 racecars, jets, and spaceships, was able to accelerate to 210 mph in about nine seconds during both its test runs. The thousands of spectators were treated to the ear-splitting sound of the vehicle, as well as the bright orange flame from the Eurofighter EJ200 jet engine.
“We did two back-to-back 200 mph runs in a five-ton car,” Green said after stepping out of the cockpit, according to the BBC. “It felt like about eight seconds, which was what we were expecting.”
He continued, “It was a real hard workout for the brakes. Probably up to somewhere close to a thousand degrees, the front brakes were smoking furiously after the second run. They just started to flicker with flame — very sort of Formula One, but in a proper high-speed car. And that was exactly what we were hoping for.”
Today’s test left the team confidant they will eventually hit 650 mph (1,050 km/h). That’s not enough to break the world land speed record of 763 mph (1,227 km/h), but it would allow the engineers to learn a lot more about the vehicle’s capabilities.
Here’s some good color from the BBC about what happens when the vehicle hits specific speed thresholds:
At over 400 mph, the wheels can no longer turn as fast as the car moves and act more like the rudders on a boat. And at 650 mph, some of the airflows over Bloodhound's body would approach the sound barrier.
This is all knowledge needed to go 800 mph in 2019, and then up to 1,000 mph in 2020 — when the rocket technology becomes available. This is currently being developed by the Norwegian aerospace and defense company Nammo.
You can watch the two high-speed tests here. (Skip ahead about an hour for the first one.)