It's late October 2013 and developments in the UK and South Africa illustrate how the BLOODHOUND project is really taking shape. But we couldn’t have achieved any of this without our amazing team and our partners and sponsors.
On the surface table in Avonmouth is the most complete car we have ever had… but it will shortly be split down again, with the upper section being moved across onto the Manufax fixture. This is the third major task we have used the Manufax for, having already been used for the lower chassis and the rails – a great example of how we reuse and recycle everything that we can.
Once there, thanks to Hexagon, it will be lined up exactly as shown. This will allow us to continue to populate the lower chassis while getting the upper chassis skinned and completed, ready to become a Eurojet EJ 200 engine integration exercise. The skins have only recently been released to the manufacturing team and Amada is already programming the laser cutting ready to cut the Titanium 3-2.5 skins as required.
The last few weeks have seen a huge amount of large, complex, 5-axis machined components arrive at our site. The response from suppliers in manufacturing these parts has been remarkable, given the demands we place on them. Each part is unique and we expect them to be right first time, despite being made from a single piece of material with minimum extra bits to hold the part while they are machined – all of which makes the performance by our manufacturing partners nothing short of outstanding.
Of particular note this month are the seven major machined components that make up the ‘rear suspension sub-assembly’. This is a major module of the car which, in effect, makes up around one-tenth of the main structure and has been in the works for a little over 12 months. These new parts have been executed to the highest standards and the Nuclear AMRC team has done a great job.
To illustrate just how amazing our partners have been, our rejection rate is less than half a percent. For bespoke, one-off parts in any similar environment – motorsport, aerospace, space or defence – that would be awesome, and we are hugely grateful to our partners for the extra effort that they put into creating every single component for BLOODHOUND.
During his recent visit, Chancellor George Osborne asked where the real innovation was in the BLOODHOUND project. The answer was twofold:
First, it’s the “open source” nature of BLOODHOUND, which feeds the truly remarkable education and outreach project which, in turn, is at the heart of everything we do.
Second is the way partners have come together to build this truly remarkable vehicle for an amount that would not even get a fast fighter jet programme scoped out, let alone kicked off. As Aristotle once said “You are what you do”. In helping us to build the most remarkable land vehicle in human history, BLOODHOUND partners are showing just how remarkable they are. (It’s also a great bit of history to join your brand to!)
Masts and more in South Africa
As I type I’m in South Africa visiting BLOODHOUND’s technical partners and starting to pull together the technical resources we will need to run the car in South Africa. The five bespoke masts have been put up by MTN and the commissioning process has started. This huge programme is the culmination of three years of hard work, so for all concerned it has been very satisfying to see this part of the project come together. You can read more about this in recent BLOODHOUND news items.
World’s largest problem solving team
During meetings with our partners out here, I’ve been showing off pictures of the car’s structure. Every time we do this we get a great response as people are very excited to see our progress and it really fires up conversations about the project.
It also highlights other amazing facts about the BLOODHOUND SSC project. For example, while I was showing the MTN team the picture of the Nuclear AMRC team and updating them on the build progress, someone noted that, even at this relatively early stage in the build and assembly, if we got everyone together who has been involved with the technology, design and build of this project we would probably fill a whole stadium. With 226 companies involved from all over the world, that’s probably correct!
While I’m out here in South Africa I’ve also been spending time with BLOODHOUND team members, including Gavin, Skip, Rudi, Dave, Wendy and Marina. The South African wing of the team is achieving a huge amount.
Skip and his extended team did a great job recently with a wheel trial supporting Brian and Mark. All World Freight – one of our partners and a sponsor of the project – stepped in to get two very heavy and awkward aluminium test wheels sent over by air freight very quickly recently, not only dealing expertly with all the relevant paperwork to ensure they didn’t get stuck in customs but also getting them safely all the way to Skip’s team. Those wheels need to come back now and All World Freight has again stepped in, handling their recovery and that of the next batch of Lightning tyres too.
On behalf of BLOODHOUND I’d like to thank Chris Watt from Alimex who manufactured both the demo wheels and kindly lent us his one (which we duly remachined to enable our second wheel profile test!). Those wheels will be heading our way again shortly thanks to All World Freight and one of them will be on display at future shows so you can see for yourself how hard the surface makes them work!
Communication masts and the view from above
I’m now back in the UK, having been to Hakskeen Pan and been hosted by Wikus, one of the MTN engineers. Wikus was supremely knowledgeable and helpful, and took the team around the masts now set up in the Pan area – thanks Wikus!
At each of these sites is a 12kW, solar-powered, off-grid, totally green, state-of-the-art solution and it’s humbling to see the technology that’s been brought to bear to allow us to share this adventure with the children of the world (including the grown-up ones).
The deployment of these masts has been a long time in the planning and it’s personally very satisfying to see them up. Thanks to MTN for a truly amazing job and well done to Gavin and Sarah for all their hard work over the last three years.
I took advantage of my past in telephony and communications, during which I had worked at height, to climb to the working platform at “Tech Centre” at the north-west corner of the Pan. I made it up some 40 metres above the desert to get a view of the Pan from above – it was amazing and, although I took photos to share with you, the picture really does not do it justice.
We plan to put some cameras on these masts; initially for our own benefit to monitor the weather, but over time we will work towards sharing these views with anyone who wants to see the location of the BLOODHOUND SSC world record challenge.
SA communications update
While in South Africa, the international nature of the supply chain was further confirmed by the signing of our contract with EMCOM to supply our digital VHF voice communications solution for the team when deployed in South Africa. Together with the agreements with Poynting for our LTE antenna design and MTN for our telephony infrastructure, this means that the vast majority of the Hakskeen Pan communications solution is a South African solution and every facet of our technical requirement has been not only met but significantly exceeded. Our thanks again to everyone involved.