Building the astonishing 1,000 mph Bloodhound SSC rocket car (pictures)
Take a close look at the rocket-powered car that's set to achieve speeds of 1,000mph, including components built by 3D printers.
Meet the Bloodhound SSC -- the car that will be propelled by a jet engine and a cluster of rockets to hit a top speed of 1,000mph, thereby setting a new world land-speed record.
It's a phenomenal machine, with a mind-boggling set of facts to match: Its engines generate 135,000 horsepower (equal to 180 Formula 1 cars), it travels a mile in only 3.6 seconds and it uses the latest technologies, including 3D printing, in its construction.
The car is being developed in Britain by a team comprising of military and aerospace experts and over 250 separate companies, providing skills, labour and materials.
The previous record of 763mph was set by the Thust SSC -- a UK team that included various members of the Bloodhound gang.
The new record attempt will be given a test run in South Africa in 2016, before returning for its actual record attempt in 2017.
The car is being shown off in a free exhibition in London this weekend, but we took a look under the hood of this rocket-powered beast during its production to find out what's required in building a 1,000mph car.
This is the main chassis in which the jet and rocket engines will be housed. It's made from a variety of materials, but the outside panels are constructed from titanium, riveted in place by over 11,000 rivets.
At full speed, the car will travel the length of three football pitches (or soccer fields, if you will) in 1 second. If you blink, the time it takes you to open your eye again will mean that you miss the car pass. It's that fast.
"Every single thing that could go wrong has been looked at -- there are systems in place that allow me to manually stop the car with parachutes if we get a complete systems failure," Wg Cdr Green said.
"The tricky bit when you're sitting level then being squashed into your seat [by the force of acceleration], the gravity feels like it's coming from all directions. Your brain gets very confused in those situations. Suddenly, it feels like I'm hanging upside down. It's something that jet pilots have to train to. It feels like you're laying on your back driving straight up."
This is Lance Corporal Ryan Kerr, one of the team of military professionals working on the Bloodhound project and, as I found out when he took me on a tour of the car, a thoroughly nice guy.
"At the moment there's about five or six of us from the military," he explained. "The opportunity came up for some of us to come and work with these seriously clever people. I've been here only a couple of months but some of us have been living here 6 to 9 months.
"We get to bring our knowledge, as well as learn a lot from people here. Aside from the military, the majority of people come from a motoring and aerospace background."
The car will be driven across an area of desert in South Africa called the Hakskeen Pan. "I went to visit all the potential surfaces and the best surface in the world for this is in South Africa," driver Wg Cdr Green said. It wasn't a perfect environment just yet though.
"They have cleared just under 21 million square metres for the track -- they have lifted 23,000 tonnes of stones by hand over the last four years."
Would LCpl Kerr drive the car? "Personally, I don't think I could ever get it to 1,000mph," he admitted.
"Andy's had so much experience with these speeds in jets. Anybody could jump in that cockpit and press some buttons to get going, but you need someone who's experienced and has the knowledge of those speeds to stay safe. You've also got to train your body physically to withstand the G-forces that you'll experience.
"I think fighter pilots can go up to about 4 or 5G. In deceleration, he'll be hitting around 3G. If something did go wrong and the car flipped up, at those speeds when it's acting essentially like a sail, it'd be the equivalent of about 30G -- it's unsurvivable."
There are three main instrument panels. The centre screen measures performance -- distance, speed and time. It gives cues when certain speeds are hit, telling Andy when to fire boosters or, on the way back, when to fire the parachutes to slow down.
This wheel is just for show. The actual wheel, Ryan explained, won't have tyres, as even the most high-performance tyres can only withstand around 300 mph, before being shredded.
The Bloodhound's wheels are being milled from single pieces of aluminium. They're currently being tested by Rolls Royce, being spun at 10,500 RPM (or around 1,200 mph) to test their tolerances at such high speeds.
"It's going to be hot in there," says Green. "We're in the desert and there's no air conditioning." Along with his four-layer safety suit, Green will be wearing a customised racing helmet, with an oxygen system taken from Typhoon fighter jets.
On the right is a model of the air-intake. On the left is what looks like a beanbag. It's actually a bag that gets put inside the air-intake and inflated in order to push on the carbon fibre frame and test its flexibility.