When we’re talking about supersonic travel, usually there are rockets involved — or maybe a daredevil skydiver. But those speeds may be coming down to Earth in a supersonic car designed to go 1,000 miles per hour.
Since 2008, a UK team has been developing a ground vehicle called the Bloodhound Supersonic Car. Engineers are packing jet and rocket power into a slender car about 46 feet long, weighing more than 7 tons. Their goal is to build one that can go more than 1,000 miles per hour — that’s Mach 1.3 — by 2016.
Swansea University lecturer Ben Evans and his colleague Chris Rose recently simulated the aerodynamic characteristics of the Bloodhound SSC design using computational fluid dynamics. Reporting in the Journal of Automobile Engineering (PDF), they concluded that the design “has a benign lift distribution across the whole Mach range of interest and a sufficiently low drag coefficient” to achieve its objective.
That’s good news, but driving the beast won’t be easy. Besides being “shaken, compressed, disorientated, deafened and heated,” Bloodhound SSC driver Andy Green will experience G forces that push him hard into his seat back. Acceleration and deceleration will mess with his blood pressure, pushing him close to losing consciousness.
Engine and ground vibrations may also make it nearly impossible for Green to see the instruments clearly. Fortunately he’s a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force so he’s used to being uncomfortable at high speeds.
The Bloodhound SSC team plans to have a car capable of going 800 mph ready next year. They’ll take it to a dirt track nearly 12 miles long in Hakskeen Pan, in northwestern South Africa. Evans and Rose reported that questions remain about how shock waves will interact with the ground, especially if they cause the dirt surface to break up. The engineers plan to continue refining their computer models.
You really can’t have too many computer simulations with a rocket-car.
Credit: Swansea University