Biggest rocket to be fired in UK for 20 years

Posted on 3 Oct 2012

Testing of a 12-foot long, 18-inch wide rocket weighing 540kg will take place in Newquay today marking a milestone in the development of the world’s first 1,000 mph car.

It will be the biggest rocket to be fired in the UK for over 20 years, and is the largest hybrid rocket ever designed in Europe.

The last time a rocket was demonstrated at this early level of maturity was during the Apollo space programme.

The hybrid rocket combines solid fuel with a liquid oxidizer that reacts with a catalyst (a fine mesh of silver) to produce its power. Although technically demanding, the project’s engineers believe it is the safest and most controllable option, allowing driver Andy Green to shut off the flow of oxygen and extinguish the rocket if required.

With a combined output of 95 Formula One cars, today’s test represents the most significant milestone yet as the Bloodhound project develops the world’s first 1,000 mph racing car.

The project has travelled the length and breadth of Britain, inspiring young people to get involved in science and manufacturing. It is being led from its Bristol base by Briton Richard Noble, who directed the Thrust SSC project that holds the current world land speed record after becoming the first car to officially break the sound barrier when it achieved a speed of 763 mph in 1997.

Bloodhound’s engineers will be evaluating the performance of the complete rocket system for the first time, which comprises of the Falcon Hybrid Rocket designed by 28 year-old self- trained rocketeer Daniel Jubb, a Formula One engine from Northampton-based Cosworth, a high test peroxide oxidiser tank and custom-designed gearbox and software.

The experiment will be conducted inside a hardened air shelter with data and video streamed live to an adjacent building where the engineers will be stationed.

During the test, the Cosworth F1 engine will rev to 17,500rpm in order to fire high test peroxide (a highly concentrated hydrogen solution used as a propellant of in rockets and torpedoes) into the rocket at a pressure that would provide enough flow to fill a bath in 5 seconds.

The rocket system is still at a very early stage in its development and the test is not without risk.

The rocket will burn for 10 seconds during the test, half the duration of a record run but sufficient to generate the equivalent of 30,000 horsepower.

Engineers will be looking to see if the system performs as expected, whether the silver catalyst will break up under the force of high test peroxide and if the full size rocket will produce the expected amount of power to break the 1,000 mph target when Bloodhound begins its land speed record attempt in South Africa next year.

Components for rocket-propelled car are being manufactured by specialists across the UK and delivered to the Bloodhound technical centre in Bristol for assembly over the next few months.

Bloodhound has predicted that the video will be followed people in 217 countries, with the test

being shown live on the internet and data shared on

Predicted sound levels at the rocket nozzle will approach 185 decibels, many times that of a Boeing 747 at take off, so if you aren’t watching it online – you might just hear it!