Thanks to Atlas Copco and our involvement as the sole supplier of tools for Bloodhound, I have been lucky enough to get the chance to spend some time at Bloodhound. I will be spending three days with the team this week before returning for a couple more days in the near future.
After a long drive down to Bristol this morning I arrived at the Bloodhound technical centre bright and early. From the outside it is a very unassuming building, you certainly wouldn’t guess that a team of engineers are building a 1,000 mph car inside! First off I was introduced to the team, all hugely passionate about what they do. After that I was then given a tour of the workshop. Currently the car is in 3 separate chunks, i.e the engine is within the upper rearward fuselage, the cockpit is attached to the rear lower chassis and the tail fin is almost complete. The team are waiting on a few final components from external suppliers meanwhile the cockpit electrics are proving to be a big task for those involved with that aspect of the car.
As someone who studies aerospace engineering looking at Bloodhound in pieces is really interesting. Also listening to some of the engineers talk about various parts of the car has been fascinating. It’s also worth mentioning it is less of a car more of a mix between a Formula 1 car, aeroplane and rocket!
My task for today has been to design a rig that will allow the team to attach and remove the wheels from the car when out in the desert. Bloodhound’s wheels have a diameter of 91cm and being solid aluminium alloy they weigh in at roughly 100 kilograms each. As a result they are very hard to handle by hand hence the need for a rig to lift the wheel up to the wheel hub where it can then be aligned. This will not only save everyone from hurting their backs but also save time and perhaps more importantly prevent any damage to the wheel hubs on the car. Once the wheel is on it will be fastened on using our smart wrenches which will ensure the wheels are fastened to the correct torque every time.
Today has been a very busy day with lots to do and see! First thing in the morning I was in the workshop with the engineers building the car to talk to them about Atlas Copco tools and take pictures of them using our equipment. I spent some time alongside a former formula 1 race engineer called Rupert who had some great stories. Today he was assembling various parts of the front suspension block affectionately known as the goats head, (simply because it looks like a goats head.) The suspension on Bloodhound has to withstand huge loads and as a result everything is very bulky. All of the joints on the front end are very much critical to the car and as a result are being carefully torqued up using our tools.
After this I was able to help out lowering the AMAD into the car. The AMAD, or Airframe Mounted Accessory Drive, is a gearbox and air starter for the EJ200 jet engine. As this was being done I took a whole load of pictures of the engineers fastening it in place with a STwrench which we will share with you all on social media.
Later in the day I then spent some time with the guys that fabricate quite a lot of parts by hand, whilst with them I took the chance to ask them how they had found our pneumatic tools and drills, they all said they had been invaluable and certainly looked well used!
After this I spent some time with a couple of the engineers building Andy Green’s office, the cockpit of the car which, as an electrical system is hugely complex. Once again Atlas Copco tools were being used in the process which is great to see. Our tools have been used in all areas of the car which is something Atlas Copco can be very proud of I think.
Following this I went back to the design office to complete my concept for a rig that will lift the wheels onto the hubs which I started yesterday. All in all I’ve been very busy but I’m loving the experience!
I arrived on site at 08:30 this morning to make the most of my last day at Bloodhound this week. The first task I had was to help Rob Bennett, Bloodhounds’ STEM communicator and “Chief inspirer”, set up a hub training day. This was to be the first day of two days training for the Bloodhound ambassadors. The goal was to teach them how to safely run the Bloodhound rocket cars with children at schools around the country.
Bloodhound SSC may be attempting to break the land speed record but the educational initiative behind it is one of the main goals of the project. The Bloodhound team work alongside around 6,000 schools and have talked to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of school children over the past few years. They’re trying inspire the next generation of engineers. I spent some time speaking to a couple of the other STEM team, Including Mike Ford. To see one of his Bloodhound talks click on the following link: https://youtu.be/Fz-Qcki18YY
Having spent some time in the training sessions with Rob, I popped out to the workshop to catch up with Andy Green, the man who will be driving Bloodhound SSC to 1,000 mph. Andy is also the current land speed record holder, after setting the current world record at 763 mph back in 1997 on the salts flats of Black Rock Desert, Nevada. 763 mph is faster than the speed of sound making Andy the only man in history to have driven a car at supersonic speeds!
A little while later, I met up with Richard Noble, the man who masterminded this whole project, along with the Thrust SSC project back in 1997. Prior to Thrust SSC Richard set the land speed record himself in Thrust 2 at 633 mph back in 1983.
After lunch I managed to take more photos of our tools in action and of the car itself. I also got the chance to help fit some fuel hoses within the fuel tanks, so I can now say I helped build Bloodhound! (Albeit in a very small way.) I watched as the foam that acts as a fire suppressant and stops the fuel from sloshing around when the car is running was put into the fuel tank.
Later in the afternoon I re-joined the rocket car training. Those attending had finished their cars and were firing them down the yard at the back of the workshop.
At the technical centre there is a Bloodhound simulator. I managed to have a go on it which was really good fun, but in the end I only managed to achieve 996 mph in it. So close! Finally before I left I helped Richard Noble lift a 5ft model of Bloodhound worth £6,000 into his car. I wasn’t nervous at all…