Rocket-powered car aims to spur interest in mathematics

The Bloodhound Supersonic Car at its unveiling in London on Thursday. It is aiming to reach 1,287kmh next year in South Africa and then shatter a mind-bending 1,600kmh threshold in 2017.
The Bloodhound Supersonic Car at its unveiling in London on Thursday. It is aiming to reach 1,287kmh next year in South Africa and then shatter a mind-bending 1,600kmh threshold in 2017.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO

LONDON • A rocket-powered car that could break the world land speed record and travel at over 1,600km an hour could be the solution to making children more involved in their mathematics homework.

The Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) unveiled in London on Thursday is an engineering marvel that its builders hope will inspire a new generation of engineers like the space race during the Cold War.

With a fighter jet engine and rockets, the sleek 135,000-horsepower car is as powerful as 180 Formula One racing cars and will go faster than a bullet.

The £15 million (S$33 million) car is a jumble of high tech that relates as much to aeronautics and aerospace as to the automotive industry.

The plan is to reach 1,287kmh next year in South Africa and then shatter a mind-bending 1,600kmh threshold in 2017.

The £15 million (S$33 million) car is a jumble of high tech that relates as much to aeronautics and aerospace as to the automotive industry.

The car has three power plants - a Rolls-Royce EJ200 jet from a Eurofighter Typhoon, a cluster of Nammo hybrid rockets and a Jaguar V8 engine that drives the rocket oxidiser pump. The cockpit looks like the one on a jet, including the oxygen mask.

Beating the record is a big motivation for the team but it is not an end in itself - their aim is also to give a taste for science to a new generation.

"We had a meeting with the Ministry of Defence and they said we have a terrible problem - we can't recruit scientist engineers," project director Richard Noble said.

"In the United States during 1961 to 1972, the number of PhDs achieved in science education increased by 300 per cent" because of the space race between the US and the Soviet Union, he said.

More than 100,000 children from 6,000 schools in Britain and 1,000 in South Africa are involved in an education project around the Bloodhound car (www.bloodhoundssc.com).

"Kids respond very well, set up rocket clubs, do more maths," said Ms Kirsty Allpress from the Bloodhound education team, which visits schools to talk about the car.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2015, with the headline 'Rocket-powered car aims to spur interest in mathematics'. Print Edition | Subscribe