In our "Pushing the Limits" series, Charlie D'Agata takes a look at a project ten years, and $40 million, in the making that is redefining the boundaries of speed:
In Newquay, England, the British-based Bloodhound team is building a car they hope will travel more than 1,000 miles an hour. That's well over the speed of sound, and it would shatter the current land-speed record.
The car's driver is former RAF fighter jet pilot Andy Green. It is possible, he told D'Agata, to drive supersonic.
"We did it!" he said after breaking the World Land Speed Record in 1997. "The car doesn't leap into the air and explode, I was delighted to find out!"
But if that ride had doors, the Bloodhound is aiming to blow them off.
"We're not just trying to break the current record, 763 miles an hour; we're gonna have an engineering adventure that will push back the boundaries of physics, literally push back the boundaries of human endeavor," Green said.
It will also push the boundaries of the human body.
To get a hint of what that feels like, Green took D'Agata up in a stunt plane, where he trains his body to take the full load of G forces he'll experience during the real thing … simulating the exact conditions of the 1,000-mile-an-hour run.
D'Agata was just hoping he wouldn't pass out. As the plane quickly accelerated to about 500 mph, the blood rushed to his head. "It felt like it was about to explode," D'Agata said.
The speed increased past the speed of sound. Then came the worst part of all: Deceleration at three times the force of gravity.
"It feels like I just got slammed right in the chest," D'Agata said.
"Exactly so," said Green. "It's fairly unpleasant, and it's all sorts of directions the human body really isn't designed to take."
The gut-wrenching G force is generated from tapping into the lunatic fringe of technology. They took the Rolls-Royce jet engine found in the Eurofighter and mounted it on top of a rocket.
The stats are face-meltingly staggering:
- 25,000 feet: The altitude it would reach if pointed straight in the air, or 17 times the height of the Empire State Building.
- 135,000 Horsepower: Every Indy 500 car on the track combined, seven times over.
- At top speed, she'll travel a mile in 3.6 seconds -- more than 4 football fields per second.
They face stiff competition from the United States, and the proven 500-mile-an-hour North American Eagle. And from Australia: The Invader, although still primarily in the planning stages.
Bloodhound leads the hunt, for now.
The team is gearing up to smash their own world record next year. And with the competition choking on the afterburner, the only thing the Bloodhound is chasing is destiny.