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Tuesday
Oct022012

Supersonic Car Designed to Become World's Fastest

The Bloodhound Project(LONDON) -- The Bloodhound is so fast, its creators needed to reinvent the wheel.

Officially dubbed the Bloodhound SSC -- short for supersonic car -- the pencil-shaped racer is meant to become the fastest car in the world and the first to reach 1,000 miles per hour -- faster than a speeding bullet. A car that fast doesn't just run on tires. It runs on 200-pound circles of aerospace aluminum that can absorb 50,000 times the force of gravity.

"We will have pushed back the boundaries of human endeavor," driver Andy Green, who flies fighter jets as a wing commander in the Royal Air Force in his spare time, told ABC News.

The car's statistics are mind-boggling. The engine is a combination rocket (designed by a 28-year-old self-trained rocketeer), race car engine and fighter jet afterburner that generates six times more power than all the cars in an Indy car race combined.

Individually, many pieces of the Bloodhound have appeared in race cars or missiles before. But the rocket is one-of-a-kind and the pieces have never been combined -- which is why the creators don't know what will happen when the engine is fired up for the first time in western England Wednesday.

"It's a proper mashup of technologies. Formula One technology, military and defense technology, rocket technology which is unique -- and putting all that together is a big challenge," said Pio Szyjanowicz of Cosworth, the company that created the Bloodhound's control system and Formula One engine and makes engines for U.S. Navy drones. "Tomorrow will be a step into the unknown for all of us."

Szyjanowicz acknowledged that while the experiment is expected to work, the risk is large: "We could end up with a big empty space where the rocket and engine used to be."

Here's how you get to 1,000 miles an hour in a 40-foot-long titanium and carbon-fiber car, which the organizers say have taken 30 man-years to perfect:

First, a jet engine from a Eurofighter aircraft -- which is significantly faster than the U.S. Air Force's F-18 Hornet -- accelerates the car to about 300 miles per hour in about 15 seconds.

Green then starts filling the rocket with high test peroxide fuel. So much fuel is needed (one ton in 20 seconds) that the pump to supply it is actually a Formula One engine. The pump technology, Szyjanowicz said, is usually found in an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Green then pushes a button that fills the rocket with fuel and allows it to hit full power. He accelerates from 350 mph to 1,050 in 25 seconds. He maintains that speed for one mile (it only takes him 3.5 seconds to cover the distance) and then he shuts down the rocket, hits the brakes and deploys a parachute designed to decelerate him from 1,050 to zero in 40 seconds. He'll cover 12 miles in 2 minutes.

"You don't feel speed. You feel the acceleration, how quickly you get there," Green said. "Kind of like a fairly aggressive roller coaster ride."

Perhaps only Green would describe a deceleration that will subject him to three times the force of gravity as "fairly aggressive." He has been flying jets for 20 years, and in 1997 became the first person to break sound barrier in a car when he set the current land speed record of 763 miles an hour.

To train for this project, Green has been driving race cars and flying aerobatic aircraft on the weekends. He insists that because of the nature of the rocket, he isn't concerned about his safety.

"This is an optimal way to produce something very safe and very controllable," he said.

Still, it's not just any day that you sit below a jet engine louder than a 747, twice as hot as the inside of a volcano, producing so much force it could suck all the air out of an average-sized house in three seconds.

He and the entire team hope the project will inspire a generation of young students to become engineers. The designers have done their work publicly, posting their blueprints, documenting setbacks, and have partnered with more than 5,000 schools in the United Kingdom and South Africa, where the completed car will finally race in 2014.

"We are looking to inspire young people about the possibilities of science and technology, Green said. "These are the kids who will build and live in the low carbon world of tomorrow … and we aren't training enough in the West. We just aren't getting enough people into science and engineering.

"So sharing the excitement and magic of our car -- live, to a global Internet audience, starting tomorrow -- is an extraordinary opportunity."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio