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Bloodhound SSC: An NDT and condition monitoring experience

22 July 2015

As a sponsor of the Bloodhound SSC (supersonic car), the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing (BINDT) is following with interest the progress of the build team as it assembles this extremely powerful land vehicle. The success of the project, BINDT says, depends to a large extent on the effective application of NDT and condition monitoring.

Bloodhound SSC will be powered by a Eurofighter Typhoon EJ200 jet engine and a NAMMO hybrid rocket, with a pump driven by a 750bhp racing car engine. The car will be 13.5m long, weigh 6.5t empty (7.5t fully fuelled) and will accelerate from rest to 1000mph and back to rest again in 120s, covering 12 miles across the South African desert. With the current world land-speed record standing at 763mph, set by Thrust SSC in 1997, driven by Wing Commander Andy Green, this exceptional challenge is being led by former world land-speed record holder Richard Noble.

The car is a mix of car and aircraft technology, with the front half being a carbon fibre monocoque, like a racing car, and the back half comprising a metallic framework and panels, like an aircraft.

The whole car is an active NDT and condition monitoring experience. NDT is carried out as part of the manufacturing process and suppliers also carry it out on materials and components. Each component is tested using the most advanced and appropriate technology available. Every test run of the car will be continuously monitored and the condition of each critical part checked, over and over again.

One important part of the condition monitoring aspect of Bloodhound’s development is the use of embedded vision systems, which accept and record high-definition feeds from each of the 25 camera locations around the car. Each of the three compact Adlink EOS embedded vision systems on Bloodhound, supplied by Stemmer Imaging, provides a video stream for live transmission to the control centre.

The live video transmission has to be capable of reliable operation at speeds up to Bloodhound’s target of 1000mph. Recent tests in the desert at Hakskeen Pan, South Africa, where video from the camera system installed on a Jaguar F-type vehicle was transmitted to a jet aircraft, have shown successful video and audio communication transmissions at closing speeds of up 650mph, in readiness for the next phase, which is integration of the video system into Bloodhound itself.

The video data stream output will be connected to Bloodhound’s cockpit instrument panel computer and the vehicle’s radio modems via a router. The independent channels from each recorder can be simultaneously transmitted in real time and the cockpit instrument panel computer can also display one of these channels on one of the cockpit instrument displays.

The number of camera locations on Bloodhound has now increased to 25. There are five safety-critical locations and camera feeds from these will be used on all runs. These cover the instruments and controls, forward-facing and rear-facing fin tops, the rocket fuel connection hose and the rocket plume. Further developments in the wing camera mounting and optics are also underway to minimise distortion and the viewing angles and mountings for the cameras that will be monitoring the wheel/ground interface have been designed.

Small-scale rocket plume imaging tests carried out last year showed that the UV range of the spectrum provides useful information in addition to traditional colour imaging of the rocket output. A JAI CB-140 GE-RA colour camera and a JAI CM-140 GE-UV camera have now been selected to monitor the rocket on the car. The next stage of testing will be on the actual rocket to be used on Bloodhound. The rocket plume will be recorded in Finland using an Optronis high-speed camera and the UV camera in the near future.

Mark Williamson, director – corporate market development at Stemmer Imaging, says: "This really exciting project has thrown up numerous technical challenges, as was to be expected in an undertaking of this complexity. We continue to work closely with the Bloodhound engineering team to address each issue as it arises, and we are delighted that we are keeping up to pace with the overall development programme.”