Bloodhound – World’s Fastest Dog?

Richard Noble has the need. In 1983 he built and drove the car Thrust 2 to a new world land speed record at Black Rock Desert in Nevada, at an average speed of 633mph (1019km/h). Powered by a jet engine from an English Electric Lightning jet fighter, this record stood for 14 years when, in 1997, a project lead by Noble again set a new land speed record mark. This time driven by ex-RAF fighter pilot Andy Green, Thrust SSC was the first car to officially break the sound barrier clocking an average speed of 763mph (1228km/h), the largest jump in the land speed record ever recorded. But Noble and Green aren’t content with their efforts with Thrust SSC, and have developed yet another program to again raise the mark – carrying the curious name Bloodhound SSC.

Bloodhound SSC's badge. Copyright Bloodhound,

The origins of the project
While some may wonder why Noble and Green want to take the risks involved in beating their own land speed record, it is much more than a case of simply being restless or the desire to make more of a name for themselves.

Noble tells the story of being in the British Houses of Parliament, only to be followed across the public lobby by a policeman who eventually caught up and cornered him. Fearing the worst, Noble waited to hear why the policeman had chased him – had his outstanding speeding fines caught up with him? “Sir, I would just like to congratulate you and your team of breaking the Sound Barrier back in 1997… My son wanted to study media at University, and he was so taken with the Thrust SSC project that he switched courses and is now an engineer.” This chance encounter showed Noble just how influential and inspiring a land speed record project could be.

In 2007 Noble met with Lord Drayson, himself a part-time racing driver and the UK Minister for Defence Equipment and Support and later Minister of State for Science and Innovation. During the meeting Drayson outlined how the Ministry of Defence, indeed Britain as a whole, was short of engineers. One way he proposed to rectify this shortage was to create a new iconic project which would inspire school students to study engineering. This had worked in the past with aerospace projects like Concorde and others, however when the inspirational projects were completed, engineering study rates dropped. Noble realised that a new attempt on the Land Speed Record could be that new iconic project.

Richard Noble, Project Director of Bloodhound with a model of the car. Copyright Bloodhound.

It wasn’t enough just to create the project and try to inspire people, if he was going to do this properly Noble wanted to involve the public as much as he could. With a land speed record attempt there is no need for secrecy, the open technical regulations mean that any competitors may be taking a completely different approach with their car and that any technical advantages may not be applicable to their design. “Unlike Formula 1 we have no secrets – Bloodhound is an educational project.”

From the very beginnings of the Bloodhound project it was designed as an educational program, and Noble and Andy Green developed four objectives:
“1. To create a national surge in the popularity of Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects
“2. To create an iconic project requiring extreme research and technology whilst simultaneously providing the means to enable the student population to join in the adventure
“3. To achieve the first 1000 mph record on land
“4. To generate very substantial and enduring media exposure for sponsors”

Andy Green, Driver of Bloodhound SSC. Photograph by Cpl Smith RAF.

After talking with the Schools Minister, Noble secured the support of the government and the assistance of the department responsible for education in putting together a school education program. According to Noble, this was vital to meeting the aims of Bloodhound, “We need to create the most advanced car we possibly can and to share all of the technology on the web and via specialist curriculum-valid courses for schools – this is the only way we can inspire a new generation of engineers and meet our objectives. We’re involving schools, colleges, universities. We’ve involved so many people in so many parts of the country, it’s a unique and wonderful challenge. And the benefits for students are just fantastic – a whole new generation of engineers will learn new skills and techniques.”

Lord Drayson explains his support for Bloodhound, “Quite simply, no previous project of this kind has ever put education on top of its list of priorities and made such a commitment to involve students at every stage. There are great opportunities here to engage young people as they study maths, physics, geography, chemistry, human biology.”

The education program doesn’t conclude once the car has been built, Noble adds. “When the car runs in 2012 we will have 500 data channels streamed onto the internet. What a terrific learning opportunity for students.”

Bloodhound are planning to run on the Hakskeen Pan in South Africa sometime during 2012 or 2013. While it may be a British project, it is something which will inspire people all around the world, and any project which is this focussed on communicating science, involving the public, and inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers is something we should all throw support behind.

Return throughout the week to find out just what it takes to go 1000mph on land


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