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Bloodhound to break records with zero emissions rocket

28 January 2020

The Bloodhound Land Speed Record (LSR) team confirmed plans to challenge for the world land speed record using a zero-emissions rocket.

Bloodhound LSR (Credit: Simon Galloway/Bloodhound LSR)

Powered by concentrated hydrogen peroxide, the rocket will be used alongside the world’s best jet-fighter engine when the Bloodhound LSR car attempts to reach speeds beyond 800mph in South Africa in the third quarter of 2021.

Following Bloodhound’s successful high-speed testing programme in the Kalahari Desert in November 2019, when the jet-powered straight-line racing car reached a staggering 628mph, the vehicle has now returned to the UK Land Speed Record Centre, Bloodhound’s HQ in Gloucestershire, to be prepared for the next phase of the project. Data analysis of the high-speed runs will used to confirm its revised configuration, alongside research into minimising the environmental impact of the project.

In parallel, parent company Grafton LSR is continuing sponsorship discussions, celebrating the extensive media coverage of the high-speed testing programme.

Green rocket

The biggest change to the car’s configuration for the land speed record runs will be the addition of a rocket to provide extra thrust. This will be provided by Norwegian rocket specialist Nammo. As part of a research programme for the European Space Agency, Nammo has designed a compact, zero-emissions rocket to be used as a launch motor to put small satellites (known as cubesats) into space. The size and power of this rocket makes it ideal for use in Bloodhound LSR.

The Nammo rocket is a ‘monopropellant’ design that uses concentrated hydrogen peroxide (water with an extra oxygen molecule – H2O2) as the oxidiser. This is pumped at high pressure through silver gauze, which acts as a catalyst, causing it to decompose (split apart) into super-heated steam (600°C) and oxygen. The steam and oxygen are channelled through a nozzle to generate thrust. There is no fuel ‘combustion’ and therefore no flame nor any chemically harmful waste generated by the rocket from each run. Bloodhound LSR will be steam powered!

Work is also underway to optimise the auxiliary power unit needed to pump the rocket’s oxidiser. Rather than the originally specified 550bhp V8 internal combustion engine, this will be an electric motor and battery pack of comparable power, using technology only available very recently.

The Bloodhound team is also exploring the possibility of running the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine on bio-fuel instead of Jet A fuel, further reducing the environmental impact of operating the car.

While these changes are being researched and planned, the car will be stripped down for servicing, including thorough cleaning to remove the salty desert dust.

Crunching the data

Vital information about required changes to the car’s configuration is being calculated by analysing data from 159 pressure sensors that covered the car’s bodywork during high-speed testing. Assistant Professor Dr Ben Evans and Jack Townsend from Swansea University found there was a 90% correlation between the real-world data and models generated before the runs using computational fluid dynamics (CFD).

The next challenge is to review the remaining 10% of the data to refine the predictions and strengthen the team’s knowledge of transonic airflow. However, the otherwise high level of correlation has given the Bloodhound team great confidence in the aerodynamic shape of the car and confirmed plans to fit winglets to the tail fin to manage the vertical downloads on the rear wheels.

The data has also confirmed the drag the car experienced at transonic speeds. Crucially, this indicates the power needed from the rocket to propel the car through the sound barrier (approximately 760mph, 340m/s) and into the record books. The data shows a 50-60kN monopropellant rocket is required.

A new record, which may never be broken, will inspire a generation

Ian Warhurst, CEO of Bloodhound LSR, said, “Our project mission is to inspire the next generation to study science and technology, so it’s very satisfying to have generated so much coverage during the high-speed testing phase and to see the project resonate with people around the world. It also shows there is a superb opportunity for a company, or group of companies, to benefit from a very substantial return on any investment in the project.”

Ian added: “This is an extraordinary story of technology and human endeavour that will stand the test of time and the record we set may never be beaten.”

Ian concluded: “I’m also pleased that we are now able to bring many new, more environmentally-relevant technologies into the design of the project. To inspire future generations of engineers, we need to be doing this with relevant technologies. For example, the rubber-burning hybrid rocket is out and is being replaced by a clean monopropellant design. And the old V8 engine is being replaced with an electric motor – just as it should be.”

Sports marketing agency Influence Sports & Media is supporting Bloodhound LSR’s search for new sponsors and partners to generate the final £8 million needed to set a new world land speed record beyond the 800mph mark in 2021. Title sponsorship and naming rights are still available to prospective sponsors.

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