Supersonic car on the cards

Rocket Science


 The team has been up for hours to beat the sun before stifling heat makes working outside unbearable.

Our new 18-inch-diameter hybrid rocket is sitting on a test stand, looking alien in the clear dawn light. We’ve been building and testing 6-inchers for the past 12 months, progressing from monopropellant to hybrids  as we learn how to control the power output. Now everyone is curious to see how a bigger version will perform.

The small rockets were comparatively easy to handle, but we still had a few blow up. Scaling up to 18 inches is a challenge because the design does not scale directly. If my calculations are correct, five minutes from now we’ll be witnessing a spectacular jet of flame shooting 50 feet out of the back end of the rocket, accompanied by an extraordinarily angry burst of noise…

Either that, or one hell of an explosion…

These hybrid rockets are custom built for the Bloodhound Project to design and build a 1000mph car, Britain’s latest attempt at the world land speed record. This project really pushes technology to new levels as we improve design and efficiency.
But this isn’t just petrol heads and science geeks playing boy racer in the desert. We aim to truly inspire the next generation of Britain’s kids to engage in maths, science and technology in the classroom.

In order to do this we had to gather knowledge from every available source, not only on the technical aspects but also on the legal aspects of manufacture, storage and transport of explosives and the financial aspects of running a company.

All in one hour

To break the world land speed record we’re required to take two runs through a measured mile within a one-hour time limit, and in order to do this we need a 12-mile track. We have to physically stop the car at mile 12 when the rocket propellants have been expended. We pick it up, turn it around, run a full systems check and re-fuel, all in blistering 40C heat. Managing all this is almost akin to landing the space shuttle, refuelling and re-launching it on another mission, in just one hour.

One second to ignition and the main HTP valve opens partially, HTP passes onto the catalyst and decomposes, producing steam and oxygen at 600C. The rocket hisses at first, a wisp of steam emerges from the nozzle, then the fuel grain ignites. A short flame becomes visible and the valve is fully opened.

The noise becomes thunderous and the flame reaches its full size. The rocket burns for seven seconds until the HTP is shut off and the fuel burns out.
We leave the rocket to cool down for an hour before moving it to our workshop where we can strip it down and analyse how the fuel burned and the effects of 3,000C on the internal components.

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