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World Land Speed Challenger Will Now Be Powered by Rockets

News Release 29 October 2012

New Zealand’s Land Speed Record Challenger, Jetblack Will Now Be Powered by Rockets

Jetblack, the New Zealand led group that will contest the World Land Speed record, today unveiled a new aerodynamic design and propulsion system for its 1,000mph challenger. The new design is powered by two hybrid rocket motors, dispensing with the combined jet engine and rocket propulsion system in the earlier design.

Richard Nowland, Jetblack’s Managing Director & Founder said, “The work the group’s design team has undertaken over the past 12 months has resulted in a car that is less complex, produces considerably less drag, has greater controllability and the potential to achieve the target speed more quickly. In all, this is a significant advance over its predecessor.

“There are two main points of difference with the new design. The first is the move to solely rocket propulsion using two hybrid rocket motors currently under development with our propulsion partners Space Propulsion Group, CA, USA. We established the relationship with Space Propulsion Group, who a world-leaders in hybrid rocket propulsion, in 2011.”

The hybrid rocket propulsion system was selected due to its inherent safety and simplicity over other rocket systems. Space Propulsion Group Co-Founder, President & CTO, Dr Arif Karabeyoglu explains, “SPG's advanced hybrid rockets deliver very high performance while retaining the safety, simplicity and controllability of classical hybrids. The inherent safety, throttling and shut down are the key virtues of SPG's rocket technology which makes it ideal for this particular application.”

The change from jet and rockets to rockets only was made after considered discussions with Space Propulsion Group on the controllability of the rocket motors. SPG are developing a hybrid rocket propulsion system that can be throttle controlled, which means the thrust of the rocket can be varied. This work-in-progress will represent a significant breakthrough and will provide Jetblack with a competitive advantage.

The hybrid rockets [These rocket motors are currently under development by SPG at their test facility in Butte, Montana. A video of the most recent test can be found here ] in the new design also produce greater thrust, 35,000lb x2 as opposed to 20,000lbs x2, are of the same type that have been chosen to power Virgin Galactic’s passenger spacecraft. Unlike jet engines which require an air intake, with the rocket propulsion system all the fuel and oxidiser can be carried on board the vehicle. Eliminating this requirement for Jetblack has positive effects on both the aerodynamics and the vehicle’s structure.

Richard Roake, Jetblack’s lead aerodynamicist says, “The new challenger’s design minimises drag. It produces approximately one-third less drag than the earlier versions, enabling the car to accelerate to the required speed faster. The new design is also shorter by almost three metres so it has less surface area, which has contributed to its lower aerodynamic resistance, and weighs around two tonnes less.”

Richard Nowland says, “A further benefit of having a solely rocket powdered design is that we have been able to lose the complexity of having control systems for each engine type. We now have far simpler and safer vehicle using Nytrox, which is the oxidiser for the rocket motors. Nytrox is a proprietary formulation from SPG and contributes appreciably to the high performance of the rocket motors; the system is pressure fed and requires no pumps.”

During a high speed run, the new Jetblack will shed around 3,100kg of weight, around 40% of the total weight of the car.

The Jetblack team plan to select the venue for testing and the subsequent high speed runs within 12 months and begin to build their vehicle in 2013. Initial low speed testing will take place in 2014, with the high speed testing and challenge taking place during 2015 and 2016.

The current Land Speed record stands at 763mph and was set by Great Britain’s Thrust SSC in October 1997 at Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA.

Richard Nowland says, “The new design represents a significant advance for the design of the vehicle and with this last major decision now behind us, the team is focused on the integration of the other componentary required, preparatory to building the challenger vehicle in 2013.”


About Jetblack
Jetblack is a Wellington-based and New Zealand led challenge for the World Land Speed Record and was founded in 2007 by Richard Nowland. Jetblack has the core aim of promoting New Zealand engineering and technology both within NZ and abroad.

About Space Propulsion Group, Inc.
SPG is an Aerospace company that was founded in 1999 to advance state-of-the-art propulsion and power generation technologies. Primary facilities are located in the heart of Silicon Valley and include administrative and engineering offices as well as fabrication and material/component testing where operations are conducted.
SPG's main focus is to develop technologies that are inherently safe, cost effective and environmentally friendly. Innovative thinking is the key driver to SPG's simple but elegant solutions to the technological challenges.

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