Glasgow firm set to produce wheels for Bloodhound SSC

A high-precision engineering firm in Glasgow is to produce the wheels for Bloodhound SSC, the vehicle aiming to break the land-speed record.

Castle Precision Engineering will manufacture 90kg forged aluminium wheels for Bloodhound SSC, which will attempt to beat the current record of 763mph set by Thrust SSC in 1997. The UK-led Bloodhound team expects to accelerate the vehicle from 0–1,000mph and back to zero in 100 seconds.

Yan Tiefenbrun, company director at Castle Precision Engineering, told The Engineer that the wheels — developed by Innoval Technology and Lockheed Martin UK — will have to be designed to withstand forces 50,000 times that of gravity when they’re rotating at 10,500rpm.

‘If the wheels were to fail it would be catastrophic because the forces involved are truly biblical,’ said Tiefenbrun. ‘There is no room for complacency.’

Bloodhound is testing an initial set of plated aluminium wheels on a UK runway in January 2013 where the vehicle will reach speeds of 150–200mph.

However, unlike the final run that is set to take place in South Africa, the UK tests will use tyres. These have been sourced from a 30-year-old Lightning fighter jet and are currently going through testing at Dunlop to ensure the integrity of the rubber is still intact.

‘At 150–200mph, the engineers should be able to calibrate and compare their theoretical data to what they’re actually getting,’ said Tiefenbrun. ‘If the two line up then it’s a good indication that what they predict for 1,000mph is actually on the cards. If the two are fundamentally different then the models are wrong and we need to have a look at what effect that has on the car.’

Bloodhound will begin high-speed testing on the 12-mile Hakskeen Pan in South Africa next summer where the wheels will be made from high-tolerance forged aluminium typically used in the aerospace industry.

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‘The salt plan is the flattest surface you can possibly imagine. Over the length of the 12-mile salt pan they only expect a rise or fall of 5cm,’ said Tiefenbrun. ‘However, there are currently small rocks on the salt pan and a rock entering the jet engine or hitting the wheels can be very detrimental at 1,000mph.’

As a precaution, the South African government has arranged for vast teams of people to clear the 12-mile route.