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Successful test-firing for 1,000 mph rocket car engine

  • Bloodhound SSC

    Bloodhound SSCBloodhound SSC

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    Bloodhound SSC

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    Hardened aircraft shelter at Newquay Cornwall Airport.Bloodhound SSC

The race to build the first car to break 1,000 mph took a big step forward today after a successful test firing of the rocket that will power the Bloodhound SSC. It was the largest rocket firing in the U.K. in over 20 years.

The British team behind the project ignited the propulsion system inside a hardened aircraft shelter at Newquay Cornwall Airport, which was originally designed to protect fighter planes from bomb attacks from the outside.

The unique engine is described as a "hybrid" as it runs on a mixture of a liquid high test peroxide oxidizer and solid synthetic rubber fuel and uses the V8 from a Formula 1 racing car as an ignition system. The design is said to be safer and more controllable than either either a liquid or solid-fueled rocket alone can be.

The data has yet to be fully analyzed, but the engine is expected to have developed over 30,000 hp during the short 10-second burn. It was designed to produce a total of 80,000 hp and 27,500 pounds of thrust in competition trim.

The needle-nose car that it will be installed in is currently under construction, and also features a jet engine from a Typhoon fighter plane which will be used to accelerate the vehicle to more than 230 mph before the rocket system is fired for the sprint to its target speed of 1,050 mph, which it is expected to reach in 42 seconds.

Three more tests of the propulsion system are planned before the record attempt, which is scheduled to take place next October on the Hakskeen Pan dry lake bed in South Africa, where a 12-mile track will be marked out for the run. If all goes to plan, the Bloodhound will hit its top speed within 6.5 miles, then use a combination of wind resistance, air brakes and two parachutes to slow it down over the course of 5.4 miles, leaving a buffer of just over 500 feet before the end of the track.

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British Royal Air Force pilot and current land speed record holder Andy Green will be driving the Bloodhound for the record and 51 years old at the time. In 1997 he became the first person to break the sound barrier on land in the ThrustSSC, which reached 763 mph in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.

After seeing the size of the bright orange flames coming out of the engine during the test, Green remarked cheekily, "I'm going to have to have a chat with the engineers, I didn't know my A** was going to be on fire."

The Bloodhound effort is one of several underway with the goal of setting a new land speed record. Former record holder Craig Breedlove is heading up a team that is hoping to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first title with an 800 mph run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2013, while a shoestring project run by Waldo Stakes, a general contractor from California who is aiming to hit 2,000 mph with a vehicle he is working on called Sonic Wind, which is built around the engine from the X-15 experimental plane that hit 4,159 mph in 1967.

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