The cockpit of the ‘car’ in which Andy Green aims to set a new land speed record, Bloodhound SSC, has been revealed. The state-of-the-art carbon fibre monocoque has been designed around the needs of Green, and it will be his office when he visits our country’s desert in 2015 and 2016 when he aims to set his record.
Consisting of five types of carbon fibre weave and two different resins, the hand crafted monocoque has taken more than 10 000 hours to design and manufacture. To provide additional strength, three different thicknesses of aluminium honeycomb core have been used. The total weight of the structure is 200 kg and bolts directly to the rear chassis carrying the jet, rocket and racing car engine.
Aerodynamic loads of up to three tonnes per square meter are generated at 1 609 km/h which the carbon front section will have to endure. The ‘office’ also comes equipped with ballistic armour to protect the driver should a stone be thrown up at very high speeds.
In the case of supersonic air reaching the jet engine fan blades, the airflow will break down and the engine will ‘choke’ (also known as ‘surge’). Such drastic changes in pressure could damage both the jet engine and the car. To counter such a possible scenario, the roof of the cockpit has been redesigned to create a series of shockwaves that will channel air into the jet engine. The shockwaves over the canopy can slow the airflow from 1 609 km/h to 643 km/h in a distance of around one meter.
The expected sound levels in and around Bloodhound SSC are carefully evaluated. Since the cockpit is positioned in front of three extremely loud motors (a jet engine, a cluster of hybrid rockets, and a racing car engine), the collective noise level is estimated at 140 decibels. Although much of the noise will be directed backwards and away from the driver, Bloodhound SSC will out-run its own sound waves at speeds above 1 207 km/h. However, the engineers at work anticipate that noise levels inside the cockpit may produce over 120 decibels. To protect Green’s hearing, an in-ear communications system, specifically made by Ultimate Ear, will protect his hearing while at the same time allowing him to communicate with Mission Control.
To allow Green to see what’s ahead of him, Bloodhound SSC has a highly specialised acrylic windscreen that’s been custom made by PPA Group. The plastic windscreen has been heated, stretched and then two layers are bonded together to create a 25mm section. This windscreen is thicker than a fighter jet’s windscreen and can withstand an impact with a 1 kg bird at speeds of up to 1 448 km/h. The aim was to make the windscreen as robust as possible, while at the same time maintaining absolute visual clarity.
Drawing on his Land Speed Record and jet flying experiences, Green played a pivotal role in the design of the dashboard and cockpit layout. The simplicity and user-friendliness of the ergonomics are important, given that the Bloodhound SSC will cover a mile in 3,6 seconds, or 150 m in 300 milliseconds.
Inside, the central screen in the cockpit will show Green the speed in miles per hour, calculated by GPS, plus jet engine and rocket outputs. Indicators will help Green to judge when to fire the rockets and deploy the braking systems. The car needs to balance all kinds of forces throughout its 1 609 km/h speed range; one of the reasons why shaping Bloodhound SSC has taken 30 design-years.
The screen to the left of the central screen shows info on hydraulic pressures and temperatures in the braking and airbrake systems, while the screen to the right provides information on the three engines, including temperatures, pressures and fuel levels. The total power output of Bloodhound SSC is around 210 kN (21 tonnes) of thrust. Or in more everyday language: 101 250 kW, or 180 F1 cars.
Two analogue Rolex instruments also features on Bloodhound SSC’s dash: a chronograph with built-in stopwatch, and a speedometer graduated up to 1 770 km/h. With each of these analogue instruments set to perform various tasks, testing on them has been vigorous to ensure that both these can withstand severe vibration at 1 609 km/h and the desert heat. These Rolex instruments are unique to Bloodhound SSC.
Instrument panels have been coated with a special non-reflective grey paint to provide the optimum background colour against which to see the gauges and controls. The cockpit walls are white to maximise available light in the cockpit.
A bespoke 3D printed titanium steering wheel that has been shaped to Green’s hands and finger reach, will be used to keep Bloodhound SSC on course. Buttons on the front of the steering wheel control the EMCOM radio, airbrakes and parachutes, while triggers on the rear of the handgrips prime and fire the rockets.
Like a normal car, Bloodhound SSC will also make use of pedals, though they are custom made to Green’s needs. The right-hand pedal throttles the jet engine and will be used to start moving. The pedal on the left controls the wheel brakes and will only be used to slow the car below 321 km/h. The wheel brakes will contribute only 1% of the total braking effort. Using the wheel brakes above 321 km/h will cause them to catch fire.
The cockpit will be fitted with a Camlock air supply system, feeding clean breathing air to Green through the ‘Adom’ mask used by Typhoon pilots. In addition to the breathing system, Green will wear an Arai helmet and a Pro Ultra HANS device to protect his neck from sudden, violent movements or decelerations. This helmet and mask combination provides the best driver protection features from both motorsport and aerospace, and is again a unique feature to Bloodhound SSC. The seat will also provide unparalleled levels of support and safety.
Driver safety has been a prime concern and the design and engineering objective has been done in close relationship with the FIA. This partnership enabled Bloodhound SSC to be safest cell in the history of motor sport.
– Charlen Raymond