Happy New Year everyone! I know I say this every year but I have a feeling 2012 is going to be quite an interesting year. Call me the eternal optimist. Well, 2011 wasn’t so bad after all. This last year we have had the Sonic Wind LSRV project featured in 4 different magazines with five major articles and there are a couple of other things in the works that I am very excited about. I will have to not say too much about these future events until they either do or don’t happen as only time will tell and I don’t want to disappoint anyone, especially myself.
This month I worked on Sonic Wind LSRV’s safety capsule which the driver (currently me) is encased in. It is based on a hardened steel, rounded end capped cylinder that will be wrapped in composite material for strength and abrasion resistance. The driver is suspended in a Kevlar web hammock that is stretched over a 4130 chrome moly steel tube frame. The capsule will be wrapped in fiberglass for added strength and it has its’ own twin supersonic parachutes to slow it to a stop. In the advent of an explosion it will be tossed from the car and deploy its own chutes. Here is a photo of the safety capsule structure under construction.
I have seen capsules designed for a couple of the other LSR cars under construction and they are rectangular in shape. I would like you guys to reconsider that because if the capsule gets tossed and a corner of that box shape catches the ground at speed it will tumble in a bouncing and erratic way. In that scenario the G forces encountered by the driver will probably be excessive to what his body can endure and administered at many different planes relative to the body. No, you want a smooth rounded cylindrical shape for your capsule. One that is more conducive to rolling and sliding as opposed to tumbling and bouncing.
I will use two small supersonic parachutes anchored to the back of our capsule that are on different length Kevlar lines so the capsule will have rear end drag pull from two different directions. This will keep the capsule from rolling and tumbling as much as it would if it were attached to only one parachute.
Many other land speed car designers who have in the past and who are currently building rocket cars have for some reason which I never understood simply placed their driver in a roll cage. I don’t believe that is a good idea because of the constant danger of explosion in using a powerful rocket and if your rocket should ever blow up, it probably won’t be pretty.
Sonic Wind in her final configuration on a full duration burn run will carry 220 gallons (1980 lbs.) of Liquid Oxygen and 230 gallons (1840lbs.) of Methanol. Considering that 1 gallon of simple automotive Gasoline in a confined area, burning in only air has the explosive power of 15 sticks of dynamite or TNT, I think you can do the math here.
This is why I build all my vehicles with the driver encased in a blast proof “safety capsule.” I used to call them “blast capsules” but sponsors shy away from terms like that for some reason. After all nowadays we do live in a politically correct (PC) world. I have always told people that if you want PC go somewhere else as all I can give you is honesty.
I am telling you now that if you are going to build a rocket car powered by a rocket engine of sufficient thrust to push a vehicle to supersonic speed, you must consider building a safety capsule for your driver. If for some reason you don’t think that is a good idea, don’t bother ever asking me to drive it!
All serious LSR design aside, I have a photo here taken by one of the crew of the “Pretty Woman” LSR car which I worked on in the early 1990s of which I was telling you about last month. This is a rear shot of the car. I am in the black Nomex race suit and I am repacking the parachute for the next run. Notice the small Lexan skirts behind the rear wheels that keep the air which has been ducted out from under the car from returning back under the rear of the car. This set up creates a low pressure area or vacuum under the “pumpkin” or rear end of the car and pulls the car onto the track at the same time stabilizing the car directionally.
Here is a photo of another neat vehicle I built in the mid 2000s with the help of John and Karen Brandes. It is an electro magneto anti gravitic interstellar space craft. It is piloted by my four year old grandson astronaut Commander Torger Stachurski. You can see him standing in the cockpit saluting me just before launch. He cut quite the spitting image in his day glow orange spacesuit and helmet, he is nine years old today. Man, they grow up so fast, don’t they?
Here is another interesting photo of me in the Summers brothers “Goldenrod” wheel driven LSR car which set the wheel driven land speed record at 409 miles per hour back in 1965. This photo is circa 1984. I took it using the timer on my 35 mm Cannon camera as I was alone at the time. After taking this photo I struggled for more than an hour trying to get out of that Chinese finger trap of a cockpit again. You can read all about my stupidity that scorching hot California summer day in Harvey Shapiro’s new book about the “Goldenrod” which will be out later in 2012. I wrote the forward for the book in which I tell that funny story.
Lastly, this is a funny photo of Mike Charlton climbing into the cockpit of “Aslan” his General Electric J-85 turbojet powered motorcycle streamliner during a speed record attempt a few years ago. I was honored to work with him and his team on the salt. I just call this photo….”Sometimes you can’t even trust your own helmet!” There is nothing I can I say to follow that……Waldo