Science & Environment

Bloodhound diary: Get out and push

RAF fighter pilot Andy Green intends to get behind the wheel of a car that is capable of reaching 1,000mph (1,610km/h). Powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, the Bloodhound car will mount an assault on the land speed record.

Wing Cmdr Green is writing a diary for the BBC News Website about his experiences working on the Bloodhound project and the team's efforts to inspire national interest in science and engineering.

PLAYING CATCH-UP

July has been a fantastically busy month for us, with major public shows every weekend. The whole team is exhausted, but still buzzing - it is incredibly stimulating to meet thousands of people who are genuinely excited about the world's first 1000mph car.

Image caption Thrust SSC was the world's first supersonic car

The month started with the British Grand Prix. I was very well-behaved and didn't remind them (too often) that Bloodhound will go about five times faster than an F1 car and can develop 180 times as much power.

I did have to defend the Land Speed Record engineers once, though. The Virgin F1 team claimed that their car was the first race car to be designed by computational fluid dynamics and without using a wind tunnel. Not strictly true.

That was how we designed Thrust SSC (the world's first supersonic car) in the 1990s and now we're doing it again with Bloodhound. It's just taken Formula One about 15 years to catch up with us!

The next event for Bloodhound was the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Huge public interest, and some interesting visitors, including the Chinese Ambassador. Apparently he only asked to see two things all weekend: the art collection in Goodwood House and Bloodhound.

I was left wondering whether there was a new competitor in the land speed record race? I hope so - more supersonic competition can only help us to inspire the next generation.

Image caption The Royal Air Tattoo celebrated the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain

The following weekend was the Royal International Air Tattoo, celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. Inspiring aeroplanes from a different age - and some bang up-to-date inspiration in the form of the Land Speed Record Challenge run by Bloodhound and Lockheed Martin.

Seven teams of young people built and raced high-speed cars during the day. They were amazingly good - future engineers all.

Our big event of July was the week-long Farnborough International Airshow, where we unveiled the complete "show car" and the new Bloodhound Driving Experience. It was also great practice for being in the South African desert - the glass walls of our pavilion made it the hottest place on the airfield!

The show car attracted a huge amount of attention. It was a real privilege unveiling it at the start of the show - and then I suddenly realised that something huge had just happened.

Image caption The full size, full length Bloodhound SSC model car unveiled at the Farnborough International Air Show

When we announced the company that would build the chassis for us, we were effectively announcing that the project was now going to happen on time. They will deliver the chassis early next summer, so we need to finish all the design work by Christmas this year.

It's no longer a case of "would like to" - we have to or it won't get built. We're now on a fixed timeline and the countdown has started.

The Bloodhound Driving Experience - which uses high-quality computer graphics to give users a taste of what it's like to be on a 1,000mph run - was running continuously on the public days at Farnborough.

Image caption HRH Prine Michael tried out the Bloodhound Driving Experience

There were some seriously good performances too - I'd better look out for my job. Senior driver during the week was HRH Prince Michael - but I'm sworn to secrecy about his top speed.

Our other software project for July was the new Intel animation of Bloodhound. True story - this animation is so effective that when we released it, we got a call from the US to congratulate us on the new record!

Friday at Farnborough was "Futures Day", dedicated to the youth audience.

We gave a couple of sell-out lectures and were then swamped on the Bloodhound stand for the rest of the day. This is exactly the sort of excitement about science and technology that we're after.

While we are busy designing the car and getting the message about engineering into schools, we must not forget that we've also got to get the desert ready.

Image caption Stones needed to be cleared from the South African site

While Hakskeen Pan in the Northern Cape of South Africa is a fantastic surface, it will need a lot of preparation.

For example, we need to clear a total area of 24 million sq m - that's the area of 4,800 football pitches.

The first test-clearance work was conducted in July, with great results, by our South African "track boss" Rudi Riek. Only another 23.99 million sq m to go.

Finally, the most special part of the month was an e-mail from a member of the public, after he and his son had visited us at Farnborough.

He wrote: "In everyone's life there is a defining moment which turns a person's view and goals in life, and meeting you has turned my son's view on science and engineering.

"My son is a gifted child but needed a focus to aim for …. [after seeing Bloodhound] he has decided to take maths and all three sciences and would like to study this at degree level." Apparently, he also wants to design Bloodhound Mark 2. Good for him.

I was very moved by this. This really is a thing worth doing.

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