The cockpit of the supersonic car aiming to break the 1,000mph barrier was unveiled in Bristol this morning.
The £10m Bloodhound rocket-powered car is hoping to break the world land speed record during record attempts on a custom-built track in the South African desert in 2015 and 2016.
The cockpit – a state-of-the-art carbon fibre monocoque – has been specially tailored to the needs of Wing Commander Andy Green, 51, an RAF fighter pilot, who will be piloting thee supersonic vehicle.
The 200kg structure is handcrafted using five different types of carbon fibre weave and two different resins and bolts directly to the metallic rear chassis carrying the jet, rocket and racing car engine.
The monocoque has taken more than 10,000 hours to design and manufacture as the carbon front section will have to endure peak aerodynamic loads of up to three tonnes per square metre at 1,000mph as well the considerable forces generated by the front wheels and suspension.
Green said: "Carbon fibre is an extraordinary material. It is the same high-tech material from which we make jet fighters, F1 cars and in this particular case, the strongest safety cell in the history of motorsport.
"It is a fantastic piece of technology and it needs to be phenomenally strong to take the load and thrust from 210 kilonewtons and 130,000 horsepower of engine thrust from the back of the car and to take the aerodynamic load of up to 12 tonnes per metre."
Sandwiched between the layers of carbon fibre are three different thicknesses of aluminium honeycomb core (8, 12 and 20mm), which provide additional strength. At its thickest point the monocoque comprises of 13 individual layers but is just 25mm in cross section.
If supersonic air reaches the jet engine fan blades, the airflow will break down and the engine will ‘choke’ (known as a ‘surge’), which can generate huge changes in pressure that could damage both the jet engine and Car.
To avoid this, the roof of the cockpit has been designed to create a series of shockwaves to slow the airflow from over 1,000mph to just 600mph in a distance of around one metre and channel the air safely into the Eurojet EJ200 jet engine.
For added safety , the car will feature a cutom-made acrylic windscreen thicker than a fighter jet’s windscreen and sufficient to withstand an impact with a 1kg bird at 900mph, as well as ballistic armour to protect the driver should a stone be thrown up by the front wheels at very high speeds.
Green has drawn on his experience of flying fast jets and driving world land speed record winners Thrust SSC and JCB Dieselmax to design the dashboard and cockpit layout.
A central screen shows the speed and jet engine and rocket outputs; a left-hand screen shows hydraulic pressures and temperatures in the braking and airbrake systems; and a screen to the right provides information about the three engines, including temperatures, pressures and fuel levels.
Together, the EJ200 jet engine and Nammo hybrid rockets produce around 210 kN (21 tonnes) of thrust, equivalent to 135,000 thrust hp, or 180 F1 cars, and Green will have monitor their status at key points during each run.
A bespoke 3D printed titanium steering wheel has been shaped to his hands and finger reach, and he will also have the benefit of a custom pedals and a carbon fibre seat moulded to his body shape.
The entrance to the cockpit is a carbon fibre hatch just below the jet air intake, featuring latches able to withstand loads of 2.5kN to prevent it from getting sucked into the engine, and the cockpit features a Camlock air supply, feeding clean breathing air to Green through a jet-fighter style full-face mask.
While the car will outrun most of its own sound waves, the project’s engineers still anticipate that shockwave and jet intake noise levels may produce over 120 decibels inside the cockpit, so Green will wear an in-ear communications system specially made by Ultimate Ear to protect his hearing and to ensure that he can communicate with mission control.
Green said: "All of this technology will give me the most extraordinary working environment with which to get Bloodhound up to 1,000mph and also the highest level of protection we can possibly get. It's a brilliant piece of engineering."