Wednesday, October 3, 2012

News: Testing time for Bloodhound and The AMRC


Experts from the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Boeing in Rotherham will be watching on intently today as the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) project tests their complete rocket system for the first time.

That's because the organisation on the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) has developed a vital component - the thrust ring that will attach the rocket to the car.

The test represents the most significant milestone yet for the British engineering showcase that aims to break the world land speed record by achieving the supersonic speed of 1,000mph.

At four meters long, 45.7 cm in diameter and 450kg in weight, Bloodhound's rocket is the largest of its kind ever designed in Europe and the biggest to be fired in the UK for 20 years. In its ultimate form it will generate c. 27,500lbs of thrust, equivalent to c. 80,000 horsepower (hp), the combined output of 95 Formula 1 cars.

It combines a Cosworth CA2010 F1 engine, High Test Peroxide oxidiser tank, custom designed gearbox and software and a Falcon Hybrid Rocket.

The AMRC initially supplied testing expertise and resources to the Bloodhound team, helping with spin testing of the car's carbon brake discs alongside member company Vibrant NDT. Other testing projects followed, including measuring friction in the front suspension joints, and calibrating the attachment ring used to monitor the thrust produced by the rocket engine.

Phil Spiers, head of the AMRC Advanced Structural Testing Centre, said: "The rocket slides into the car body. The thrust ring is the part of the car that the rocket attaches to. When the rocket fires, the force it generates pushes back into the car through the thrust ring.

"The big challenge for the Bloodhound team is to keep the centre of pressure from the rocket aligned with the axis of the car. Any off-centre forces would push the car off line, making [pilot] Andy Green's job even more difficult."

Spiers and his team of specialist engineers at the AMRC with Boeing calibrated the aluminium thrust ring used in the test firing.

The thrust ring features eight strain gauge bridges at various points around its circumference. Each of these is made up of fine wires that change resistance as the metal stretches under the stresses imparted by the rocket. That change in length causes a change in output voltage from the bridge, which can be precisely measured. This helps the Bloodhound engineers to fully understand the force and effects of the rocket thrust.

Spiers added: "What we've done is test the complete thrust ring assembly with a known load, and recorded the output from the bridges. We did this at the centre of the ring, and also off-centre to pick up the difference in side-to-side loading – this shows that if the rocket's centre of pressure does move, we can detect this.

"It wasn't a perfect calibration as there is some flexibility in the support structure. It's particularly difficult to calibrate accurately, but we have done it."

A steel ring will be used in later tests as the rocket is brought up to full thrust levels – this will be manufactured and calibrated at the AMRC with Boeing.

The AMRC's machining-focused Process Technology Group is now producing a number of key parts for the car, including gearbox components for the Cosworth auxiliary power unit.

Rotherham high-tech precision engineering sub-contractor, Newburgh Engineering is a project sponsor and has completed Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) gearbox casings for use in the car.

The Bloodhound project also aims to inspire future generations to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by showcasing these subjects in the most exciting way possible.

The AMRC's Manufacturing Transporter (MANTRA) will be at the test site in Newquay. MANTRA is a specially equipped 14m long lorry designed to give aspiring young engineers a hands on experience with real, leading-edge manufacturing technologies being developed at the AMRC.

Bloodhound SSC website

AMRC website



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