Bloodhound goes green

The Bloodhound Land Speed Record (LSR) team has confirmed plans to challenge for the world land speed record using a zero-emissions rocket. Powered by concentrated hydrogen peroxide, the rocket will be used alongside a jet-fighter engine when the Bloodhound LSR car attempts to reach speeds beyond 800mph in South Africa in the third quarter of 2021.

Following Bloodhound’s successful high-speed testing programme in the Kalahari Desert in November 2019, when the jet-powered car reached 628mph. The vehicle has now returned to the UK Land Speed Record Centre, Bloodhound’s HQ in Gloucestershire, to be prepared for the next phase of the project. Data analysis of the high-speed runs will used to confirm its revised configuration, alongside research into minimising the environmental impact of the project.

The biggest change to the car’s configuration for the land speed record runs will be the addition of a rocket to provide extra thrust. This will be provided by Norwegian rocket specialist Nammo. As part of a research programme for the European Space Agency, Nammo has designed a compact, zero-emissions rocket to be used as a launch motor to put small satellites (cubesats) into space. The size and power of this rocket makes it ideal for use in Bloodhound LSR.

The Nammo rocket is a ‘monopropellant’ design that uses concentrated hydrogen peroxide (water with an extra oxygen molecule – H2O2) as the oxidiser.This is pumped at high pressure through silver gauze, which acts as a catalyst, causing it to decompose (split apart) into super-heated steam (600°C) and oxygen. The steam and oxygen are channelled through a nozzle to generate thrust. There is no fuel ‘combustion’ and therefore no flame nor any chemically harmful waste generated by the rocket from each run. Essentially making Bloodhound LSR steam powered.

Work is also underway to optimise the auxiliary power unit needed to pump the rocket’s oxidiser.Rather than the originally specified 550bhp V8 internal combustion engine, it will be an electric motor and battery pack of comparable power, as the technology has only recently become available.

The Bloodhound team is also exploring the possibility of running the Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine on biofuel instead of jet fuel, further reducing the environmental impact of operating the car.

“This is an extraordinary story of technology and human endeavour that will stand the test of time and the record we set may never be beaten,” Ian Warhurst, CEO of Bloodhound LSR, said. “I’m also pleased that we are now able to bring many new, more environmentally-relevant technologies into the design of the project. To inspire future generations of engineers, we need to be doing this with relevant technologies.”