April 2014 issue

Date:24 March 2014 Tags:, , , ,

Target: 1 000 mph. How bloodhound will defy the odds

Next year, if all goes according to plan, the world’s fastest car will be in South Africa for an attempt on the Land Speed Record, taking aim at the magical 1 000 miles per hour mark. Powered by an EJ200 turbofan engine, with an extra kick from a hybrid rocket, the fighter-like Bloodhound will race down a dry lake bed called Hakskeen Pan to cover the measured mile in 3,6 seconds, then make a second run within an hour to claim the record. At least, that’s the plan: achieving that kind of speed on the ground will be a feat little short of miraculous – and the huge risks are a given.

At the wheel will be a calm, remarkably brave man named Andy Green, the RAF pilot who broke the speed of sound aboard Thrust SSC way back in 1997. Our cover story introduces the Bloodhound team, led by aviation entrepreneur Richard Noble, and describes how they intend to take on the challenge. A critically important element of the mix is Ron Ayers, 81, an aerodynamicist and engineer who is largely responsible for keeping the car’s wheels on the ground. Many will remember him for his similar role in the Thrust SSC project.

A note on our use of Imperial measures: whereas PM is usually resolute about metrication, we relented in this case because there’s something so compelling about the “1 000 mph” prize. For the purist, however, we are happy to provide the official measure: it’s 1 609 km/h.

Next up – a fascinating, slightly chilling piece by PM writer Joe Pappalardo titled “The Armageddon Club”. It’s a close-up look at America’s nuclear-strike arsenal, captured from a rare ringside seat at an ICBM launch. One of the many fascinating facts to emerge from Joe’s visit: the US is still using the ageing but upgraded Minuteman III missiles to deliver its nuclear warheads. By the time they are replaced in 2030, they will be all of 70 years old. But here’s the thing – these missiles are still capable of striking anywhere on the globe within half an hour.

In less combative mode, we showcase a very clever quadcopter with the unlikely name of Huginn X1. This high-tech reconnaissance flier sells for a gulp-inducing R700 000 and was built by Danish company Sky-Watch. Originally designed for the military, it’s now used by security companies, fire departments and search-and-rescue services the world over. In fact, says writer Sean Woods, it sets the benchmark for compact, intelligence-gathering autonomous UAVs (“Eyes in the sky”, page 48).

Still with things innovative, we introduce self-described tinkerer and electromechanical engineer Antony English, who has converted his Jeep Grand Cherokee to electric drive and slashed his running costs to an amazing 12 cents per kilometre. He’s our kind of guy; read about him in “Running on empty”, starting on page 70.

Oh, and the gadgets. You’ll meet Samsung’s much-anticipated Galaxy S5 smartphone, some really big curved-screen TVs, a couple of desirable devices from Sony, a refrigerator that takes teenage eating habits into account, and our usual (read gloriously eclectic) mix of gadgets in Great Stuff, starting on page 30.

As always, be the first to know.

Alan Duggan (aland@ramsaymedia.co.za)