Bloodhound SSC: Inside the cockpit of a 1,000mph car

Described by driver Andy Green as his '1,000mph office', the Bloodhound SSC's new cockpit is a true showcase of world class engineering design.

The state of the art carbon fibre monocoque was unveiled at a special event in Bristol last week ahead of the car's world record attempts in the South African desert in 2015 and 2016. It has been tailored exactly to Green's body, with a 3D printed steering wheel moulded to his grip offering him trigger-controls for the 14m long, 7tonne vehicle's rockets. The cockpit alone is the product of more than 10,000 hours of design and manufacture. Handcrafted by URT Group using five different types of carbon fibre weave and two different resins, it weighs 200kg and bolts directly to the metallic rear chassis carrying the jet, rocket and racing car engine. During the record-breaking drive next year, the carbon fibre front section will have to endure peak aerodynamic loads of up to three tonnes per square metre at 1,000mph, as well as the considerable forces generated by the front wheels and suspension. As such, it has been fitted with ballistic armour to protect the driver (a single stone thrown up by the front wheels could be disastrous) and a specially designed curved windscreen made from acrylic that is able to withstand an impact with a 1kg bird at 900mph. The cockpit is positioned in front of three incredibly loud motors: the jet, a cluster of hybrid rockets and the racing car engine that drives the rocket's oxidiser pump. Collectively, these will generate a noise level of around 140db, although much of this will be directed backwards, away from the driver. Central to the cockpit's design is the control system. Situated above the 3D printed titanium steering is a central screen that shows the speed in mph and Mach number, plus jet engine and rocket outputs. Dynamic speed indicators will help Green judge when to fire the rocket and deploy the braking systems. The left hand screen shows hydraulic pressures and temperatures in the braking and airbrake systems, while the one to Green's right will provide information about the three engines, including temperatures, pressures and fuel levels. Together, the EJ200 jet engine and Nammo hybrid rockets are expected to produce around 210kN of thrust, equivalent to 135,000thrust hp, or 180 F1 cars. Bloodhound's dash also features two precision-engineered analogue Rolex instruments: a chronograph with built-in stopwatch, and a speedometer graduated up to 1,100mph. The speedometer is a vital back-up to allow the car to be stopped safely should the digital dashboard fail, while the chronograph will help to time the start-up and cool-down of the jet, and help to monitor the performance of other systems. The 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, while the cockpit walls are white to maximise the available light in the cockpit. The car also has interior lights, as it will often be prepared before dawn, when the desert will still be dark and temperatures are around freezing. 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. Bloodhound engineers developed several design evolutions of the wheel, the last of which was finalised for manufacture by Cambridge Design Partnership. Bloodhound has a conventional steering rack with a 30:1 ratio (compared to a normal car of around 15:1), although its long wheelbase makes for a very large turning circle: 240m, compared with 10m for a typical family hatchback. The car has pedals like a standard car, though once again they are custom designed for Green. The right-hand pedal throttles the EJ200 jet engine and will be used to get the car moving. The left pedal controls the wheel brakes and will be used to slow the car at speeds below 200mph. The wheel brakes will only contribute about 1% of the total braking effort, reducing the stopping distance by around half a mile. Last but not least in the cockpit is the driver's seat. During his world record attempt Green will be sat in a carbon fibre seat moulded to his body shape by Real Equip and manufactured by URT Group. Strapped in using a Willans five point harness, he will also be wearing a Pro Ultra HANS device, to protect his neck from sudden, violent movements or decelerations, and an Arai helmet. "All of this technology will give me the most extraordinary working environment with which to get Bloodhound up to 1,000mph and also the highest level of protection we can possibly get," Green commented. "It's a brilliant piece of engineering."