Most powerful rocket built in Britain for 20 years is test fired in a ball of flames and smoke

Bloodhound rocket

A rocket which is set to power a 1,000mph car was test fired for the first time yesterday.

The massive jet will be used in a vehicle aiming to smash the world land speed record of 763mph.

The rocket is currently undergoing a series of tests and was yesterday ignited for the first time at Newquay Airport in Cornwall.

The screen on which guests watched the rocket fire into life shows the flames and a speed dial
The screen on which guests watched the rocket fire into life shows the flames and a speed dial

It was bolted to the floor and fired – making a spectacular noise as it burst into life and a huge ball of flame powered from the rear.

The 18 inch rocket is the most powerful rocket produced in the UK for 20 years and is going through a series of performance and safety tests.

It was ignited yesterday by the British Bloodhound team, which is hoping to use the device in the world’s first car to hit 1,000mph (1,610km/h).

The testing was conducted at the Aerohub, Newquay Cornwall Airport, inside a shelter previously used to house Tornado fighter bombers.

The 18-inch rocket must go through a series of performance and safety tests

Invited guests watched the ten-second burn from inside another shelter via a video link.

Bloodhound rocket
A tail of flames pour from the 18inch rocket, top right
Bloodhound rocket
The Bloodhound rocket powers up, with a thermal imaging screen on the bottom right showing the heat emitted
Bloodhound rocket
The rocket bursts into a bright flash of white light

Bloodhound the same team that claimed the existing land speed record for Britain in 1997.

It includes the driver, RAF Pilot Andy Green, project director Richard Noble and chief aero engineer Ron Ayres.

But whereas their previous vehicle Thrust SSC used two jet engines to break the sound barrier, the new car, Bloodhound SSC, will incorporate a jet engine and a rocket.

The jet is the well-established EJ200 power unit used in the Eurofighter-Typhoon, but the rocket has been built especially for the test and must be put through a test programme.

The firing is the first of 15 planned to take place over the next year or so.

Developed by Daniel Jubb of Falcon Project Ltd in Manchester, the rocket is what is termed a hybrid.

That means it burns a combination of a solid fuel (hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, or HTPB) and a liquid oxidiser (high-test peroxide, or HTP) to provide thrust.

Hybrids are not as simple to operate as all-solid motors, but they have the advantage of all-liquid rockets in that by closing valves they can be shut down rapidly.

The main issue is getting the fuel grain to burn smoothly and evenly because hybrids are prone to disrupting oscillations.

The team will be poring over the data to assess the 18in by 12ft (45cm by 3.6m)chamber’s burn characteristics.

The test saw w the rocket motor fed HTP at a pressure of 600psi (4MPa).

It delivered an average thrust of 12,000-14,000lbf (50-60kN) with a top figure slightly above that. peak

That would be insufficient to get Bloodhound SSC up to 1,000mph so the the pressure will need to be almost doubled, to produce an average thrust of 25,000lbf, or 111kN, for 20 seconds, and a peak of 27,500lbf (122kN).

Bloodhound hope to be  conducting “slow speed” runway tests in the UK in the first half of next year.

Full road tests will happen on a specially prepared track in South Africa by the end of 2013.

It will be 2014 before the car tries to go beyond 1,000mph.

Andy Green said: ”By the end of 2012, we will have test-fired the rocket, we will have the car going on to its wheels and we will be turning this into a running vehicle for 2013.

“We’ve done good ideas, we’ve done detailed design – this is now transition to reality. This is actually happening and we are going to have a car next year.”

Officials at the Bloodhound Project said yesterday’s test firing was a success.

Mark Elvin, design engineer, said: ”It couldn’t have gone any better.

”We’re confident that when the rocket works at full spec, it will be able to thrust 27,500lbs and propel the car to over 1,000mph.

”Before the beginning of the test we were all apprehensive because we didn’t know what to expect. It was the first time we’d ever seen it in action.”

Richard Noble, project director, added: ”These experiments can go wrong which is why we were locked in a bunker.

”But the coverage went all over the world and it’s phenomenal.”


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