Rolls-Royce gives ‘professional’ Bloodhound Project full backing

Rolls-Royce has become a full partner of the Bloodhound Project after becoming impressed by the team’s professionalism, the company said yesterday.

The engineering firm is now an official sponsor of the world land speed record attempt and will take part in its educational programme to encourage the next generation of engineers, having initially only provided technical assistance around the use of a Rolls-Royce-made jet engine in the Bloodhound car.

The Bloodhound team last week completed manufacture of the vehicle’s lower chassis and are moving to a 20,000 sq ft facility in Avonmouth in Bristol ready to complete assembly of the car by the end of the year, before making the record attempt sometime in 2014.

Rolls-Royce director of engineering and technology Colin Smith told The Engineer that the Bloodhound team had drawn Rolls-Royce in through its successful work promoting engineering in over 5,000 schools.

‘I’ve been enthused by how successful they are but I’ve also been pleased by their professionalism,’ he said. ‘The engineering seems to be really good quality. They’ve got a structure behind it.’

Fifty-six STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) ambassadors from the company will assist teachers in delivering Bloodhound-themed lessons as a way of inspiring children to study engineering.

The Rolls-Royce logo will also appear on the Bloodhound car alongside those of other partners such as Cosworth and Serco. Bloodhound’s chief engineer Mark Chapman said: ‘It’s fantastic they feel confident enough in us to put their name on the car.’

To reach its target record speed of 1050mph, Bloodhound will combine a rocket with a Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet engine, which was originally used by the Ministry of Defence as a flight-test engine for the Eurofighter Typhoon programme.

As the engine was originally designed for use in a fighter plane, the Bloodhound team and its partners, which include members of the Army’s Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, had to adapt the technology for its new purpose.

Although the engine itself has not been modified to cope with Bloodhound’s greater speed (25 per cent faster than that of a Typhoon fighter) or acceleration (three times the force of gravity), the team have had to develop a special air intake to deal with the higher air density found at the ground altitude of the record attempt site at Hakskeen Pan in South Africa.

They also had to design software to mimic the signals sent by the Typhoon control system and effectively trick the engine into thinking it is still in an aircraft, for example sending a signal that the landing wheels have been raised.

From left: Colin Smith, Mark Chapman, Richard Noble with children taking part in the Bloodhound educational programme.

The team are now preparing to assemble the pieces of the car’s structure by the end of the year. ‘Last week at the National Composites Centre we had baked the lower rear structure, which is a metallic, glued and riveted construction,’ said Chapman.

‘We’ve already got the front monocoque, the large chunk of front composite structure. We’re then going through manufacture of the side-rails and the trellis work, that goes down the side of the car. Then the upper structure to close that all off is in manufacture at the moment.’

Bloodhound director Richard Noble said the project was an example of inspirational engineering that children could relate to, but also that the reduction of NASA’s educational outreach programme left a gap that Bloodhound could fill.

‘A lot of well-meaning companies have produced their own educational programmes and the difficulty is that often the subject isn’t particularly inspirational. It’s interesting but it’s not something that grabs them,’ he said.

To read the full interview with Colin Smith click here.