Engineering - Blood on the tracks

25th September 2009 at 01:00

The world air speed record for low altitudes is 994 miles per hour. Now some of the world's most revered engineers are hoping to smash that record on land. Former Tomorrow's World presenter Kate Bellingham is urging schools to follow their progress and inspire the next generation to pursue careers in science, engineering, technology and maths.

The engineering challenges of hitting 1,000 mph on land - the record stands at 763mph - are "many and varied", according to Ron Ayers, the Bloodhound SSC (super sonic car) team's chief of aerodynamics. "For instance, the dynamic air pressure at maximum speed is in the order of 12 tonnes per square meter," he says. "Thus the structure must be incredibly strong and rigid.

"The wheels must cope with stresses corresponding to a radial acceleration of 50,000g (50,000 times the force of earth's gravity). They must also be robust enough to withstand stone impact at over 1,000mph. The design of these wheels will push materials technology to its limits."

As well as the impact on the car, there is also the impact on the driver - fighter pilot Andy Green - to consider. Already he has been behind the wheel of the vehicle which smashed the record twice.

"He will be shaken, compressed, disorientated, deafened and heated, but these are all in a day's work for a pilot," says Wing Commander Nic Green, chief research medical officer at the Royal Air Force Centre of Aviation Medicine.

The first attempt is scheduled for summer 2010, with a target of 800mph. The car will then be reviewed and modified before aiming for 1,000mph in 2011.

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