Happy May Sports fans!
I wanted to show you all the work that was done on the chassis this month and to make it clearer here are a few photographs.
The underside treatment of the car has to be handled in a very special way using various metal materials such as Aluminum and Steel sheeting and this is why. The front ring wheels will be spinning in excess of 10,000 RPM when the vehicle is traveling in excess of Mach 1.
Even though we will be running on the Bonneville Salt Flats there is always the chance of kicking up an old bolt or race car part left by some other vehicle in the past which may be buried just below the surface of the salt. That piece of material will instantly become a projectile with near bullet velocities. The blow from this projectile will be a glancing blow and not a direct shot but a ricochet bullet is no less dangerous than a direct hit by a bullet in my book.
I know about this personally because I was hit with a ricochet .22 short bullet round right between the eyes back in 1972. This is a true story and I did survive but that incident may account for some of my less than average behavior.
For this reason the area directly behind the front wheels is sheeted with 16 gauge steel sheet. The sheet is bolted onto L shaped mild steel brackets every three inches with a ¼ inch diameter grade 8 Allen head bolt. The bolts lock into locking nuts that are sealed into the vehicle with red RTV Silicone for corrosion control and then Loctited together. Literally, I installed by hand nearly 400 of these bolts and nuts in order to secure all the sheets.
If a projectile should pass through the steel sheet protecting the vehicle underside it will probably hit one of the steel chassis members or maybe even one of the Titanium spheres used to contain the high pressure gasses for the rocket engine. This intrusion should not present too much of a problem if it were to occur because of the materials I use.
These Titanium spheres are strong and tough and would deflect even a direct hit from a NATO 7.95mm round or an American standard .223 round. Like I said they are really tough. These spheres are the parts of satellites and spacecraft that nearly always survive the fiery reentry into the atmosphere. If a space vehicle crashes into the atmosphere from orbit it will be a red hot Titanium sphere that takes out your house and sets it on fire. I guarantee it. These spheres are rated for a burst pressure of 6,000 PSI. We will be running them at about 2,200 PSI so I can save time building pressure in them in order to run the rocket engine. I will be able to cascade standard pressure bottles to get the Titanium spheres up to pressure and won’t need the aid of say a Haskel pump in order to increase pressure.
During a land speed record attempt two runs in opposite directions are averaged in order to determine a new land speed record. You are only allowed one hour to complete the second run from the time the vehicle passes out of the measured mile on the preceding run. So shortening the time needed to build pressures in the pressure vessels is crucial to setting a land speed record.
The five smaller Titanium sphere tanks are located in the very nose of the vehicle along with the front wheels and swing arm, steering box, the batteries and laser pointer in order to keep the Cg ahead of the CP in the vehicle as the fuel is expelled during the rocket burn. Sonic Wind LSRV actually becomes more stable as the run progresses in time because of weight transfer. This is an example of my “Zen Design philosophy” which I use in all my creations.
Another example of Zen Design is that the rocket engine thrust line fires through the Cg of the vehicle when it is fully loaded with fuel and LOX but as the LOX (oxidizer) and Methanol (fuel) are used up their heights in the tanks are diminished. As the propellant heights and weight go down so does the Cg slightly. The Cg getting lower and closer to the ground now has the engine firing thrust line over it and this gives a negative lifting lever moment to the nose. This thrust moment forces the vehicle’s nose into the running surface keeping it from coming up off the surface and allowing the vehicle to fly. With that thrust lever moment being thirty feet away from and behind the front wheels, it will keep the nose and front wheels firmly planted on the Salt Flats. Such is the beauty of using a liquid rocket engine. These kinds of dynamics and loading benefits you just don’t get with jet engines, solid rocket or hybrids rocket engines on a land speed car.
Next is an Aluminum sheet which runs the length of the underside of the car. It gives strength to the chassis, protects the more vital components from intrusions and projectiles and keeps the underside airflow controlled and headed in the right direction. Again the Aluminum sheets are bolted to the chassis in the same manner as the steels sheet.
At the underside of the rear end of the car just before the rear swing arm that holds the rear fins and wheels on to the car there is a sheet of perforated 18 gauge steel sheet. It is also mounted with grade 8 bolts. Both of the steel sheets are also bonded to the car with clear silicone. Red RTV silicone is used for corrosion control. We want to keep all the salt out of the car as salt generates rust and there is a real danger if the car gets rusty in an area that can’t be seen by the crew. Rust weakens the steel of the car and as such has to be avoided at all costs.
The perforated sheet allows pressures to equalize at the rear of the car so there is no added lifting effect if pressure builds up there. The car is long so the air has a long way to travel under the car and I want to make sure I don’t get a build up of air at the rear of the vehicle. There will also be a rounded aluminum sheet in this area which will shroud the underside of the rocket engine nozzle. It will direct this last bit of air to be vacuumed out by the high exhaust gas velocities of the rocket engine. This will keep a sort of vacuum under the entire car.
Another thing I did this month was to run a ¾ inch diameter crane cable into and through the chassis from the rear of the car all the way to an anchoring point slightly behind the empty Cg of the car. This cable will be the anchoring device for the parachutes which will slow the car. The cable is woven through the chassis in order to feed the parachute opening shock loads throughout the entire rear of the car instead of just to a bracket welded to the back of the car as most cars have. When the parachutes come out the loads will pull on the cable and snuggle the chassis kind of like a shoe lace being pulled hugs a foot. This makes the car stronger when the chutes come out rather than simply trying to tear the back of the car off.
I am using only two reefed parachutes for the car rather than a series of parachutes for various speeds. The reason for this is that my reefed parachute will initially deploy at about 7 feet in diameter and then open up progressively until it is at its’ full 17 feet in diameter. This will give continuous drag from peak speed all the way down to 200 miles per hour. The second chute is a duplicate for backup.
Some designers use a series of parachutes of maybe as high as three in number to slow their cars, one for high speed, one for medium speed and one for low speed. That is a bad idea because say your car is in trouble at 1,000 miles per hour and the driver releases the parachute and the car starts to tumble. He may be unconscious or unable to deploy the next and the last parachute. So now he only has to survive a crash from 800 miles per hour.
An automatically reefed parachute is the best idea. Of course there is always the chance that for some reason or malfunction the chute may deploy to its’ full diameter of 17 feet at say 1,000 miles per hour. The shock load would rip it or the mounting brackets from the car and the car will be chute less. This is why I use a crane cable of tremendous strength laced through the chassis. It is insurance against any unforeseen problems. Here are a couple photos of the laced cable and I will show you more next month after it is completed.
Craig Breedlove lost his chutes on his 1964 car at 550 miles per hour and crashed. Craig also lost the chute bracket off of his rocket dragster at 425 miles per hour and crashed it. He also lost his chutes a few times in the 500-600 mile per hour range and lost control of his 1965 Spirit of America LSR car. Art Arfons has lost parachute at various speeds and had stopping problems. So did Hal Neeham at 620 miles per hour. Paula Murphy lost her chute bracket and crashed breaking her back in her STP special rocket car. Other chute failure problems plagued Thrust SSC, Kitty O’neil’s rocket car runs and just about every jet and rocket car pilot that ever ran on a drag strip. I could go on and on but now you can see why I am weaving a crane cable through my rocket car chassis as an anchor for my chutes.
People always ask me why I don’t plan on running on a dirt playa such as the ones available in Nevada like Black Rock or Diamond Valley or the ones in Southern California such as Rosamond or Muroc. The reasons I prefer a salt course are numerous but here are the main ones:
1. Dirt is harder on a vehicle if it crashes as the vehicle will dig in easier by breaking through the surface and digging into the soft dirt or mud underneath. This may grab the vehicle and toss it. A car being tossed even at a moderate speed will totally destroy the car and probably smoke the driver. This is why more cars survive spinouts at Bonneville than they do at El Mirage dry Lake.
Dry dirt is more abrasive than salt. It will grind and cut the car up faster than salt. Salt is wet and cool (there is water saturated salt just a few inches under the surface) so it acts sort of like a lubricant and a vehicle can slide easier on salt than dirt. Because of this you can spin out a car and not tumble it on salt better than on a dirt course. A thousand old salt dogs reading this right now know what I am talking about here. I personally have spun out a car on the salt at over 160 miles per hour. Art Arfons survived a crash at 585 or 610 miles per hour (speed depends on who is telling the story) at Bonneville in 1966.
2. A salt track can be manicured or repaired to some degree if it is rough whereas a dirt lake simply cannot. If the dirt course is rough because of a bad winter or not enough rain has fallen you are stuck with what you have got and have to make the best of it. A salt playa can be smoothed out with a drag and every rain makes it better and better.
3. Salt is a harder surface to run on when conditions are right and the moisture content is low. So it supports a craft better than dirt and the track is more true and level. The real heavy cars like to run on a dirt course because they use the course itself as a sort of suspension. The reason for this is that under the hard dirt surface of a mud lake there is a layer of mud and the mud compresses as a heavy vehicle goes over it. So the course acts sort of like a shock absorber.
Such was the case with the 11 ton Thrust SSC. The SSC worked pretty well at Black Rock. The negative side of this is that the mud is not of a constant consistency so you are counting on a suspension or cushion that varies in its effectiveness. Salt on the other hand is like damp concrete, hard, stable and true.
4. Another important factor is that most dry lakes in California and Nevada fall under rules set forth by their local county bureau of land management agency or BLMs. A lot of these BLM guys will think “If these guys can build a multimillion dollar land speed car well than they can afford a little gouging from us also.” So they will impart thousands of dollars of “additional fees” such as natural and wildlife impact studies and studies to find out if your cars’ noise will scare away any wildlife or wipe out a certain beetle population or whatever B S they can come up with to get at least another $30 or $50 Large out of your kitty and deposited into their county coffers.
My guess is some of that coinage will get put into somebody’s pocket and some BLM guy will be driving a new pick up truck soon but that is the World today for you. On the other hand Bonneville is set up for racing and racers have been going there and running for nearly a century. It cost what it costs and there is no hidden B S or additional fees. The State of Utah and the State of Nevada like the racers being there and so does the nearby town of Wendover.
5. There are casinos and other “entertainment” in Wendover for your crew to unwind and blow off steam and just about everything else you would need is available if you need it during your attempt. All you need is only an 11 mile drive from the salt. This is great especially if you need to get something you may need quickly in order to get you over the top. A lot of dry Lakes aren’t near anything of value or any small towns at all so if you have got a problem. You now have a problem a million miles from nowhere.
There are a dozen more reasons I can think of for running at Bonneville versus a mud lake but I think these are enough to illustrate my point.
Now on to more fun: Preston Lerner came out to El Ranchito Rockete in order to interview me for an article in an upcoming issue of “Automobile magazine”. I am excited about that and will update you as it happens. Preston has been a great asset to the Sonic Wind LSRV program and earlier got an article about us published in the Smithsonian “Air and Space” magazine. Here is a shot of Preston standing next to Sonic Wind the ice racer. You can see how low and small Sonic Wind is but than again Preston is a tall dude.
As long as we are talking about press you can go to www.ffjounal.net/item/10925-mach-trial.html to read a great new article written about me and the Sonic Wind LSRV. This is an online fabrication magazine with tons of cool features. Some of the articles on the magazine site even teach you how to weld special metals or do all kinds of things you need to learn about if you are building something neat and using metal. The F F Journal website has just become one of my computer favorites and should be one of yours too. A big Thank You to Nick Wright for writing the great article, I owe you one Nick, nice job!
Also if you remember last month I was telling you all about Captain Jack McClure the famous rocket go cart guy and friend of mine. Well a new article came out in the spring issue of Traditional “Rod and Kulture” Illustrated magazine, (issue #29 starting on page 74). It tells Cap’n Jack’s story better than I did and has lots of neat photos of the various machines that he has built. I bought a copy for my archives and will have the Cap’n autograph it for me the next time he is back in SoCal. So go get yourself a copy, it is a keeper.
Lastly, If you read my website updates regularly you will remember the update I wrote a while back where I proposed that someone with money recover the many Apollo moon shot Saturn 5, Saturn 1 and Saturn 1B first stages from the Atlantic Ocean in order to retrieve the engines which should be in good to fair shape as well as the precious metals they are built from.
Well, I read an article early this month on the net that claims that billionaire Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon has decided to do just that and is in the process of recovering the Apollo 11 Saturn (S-1C) first stage. It is in a little deeper water than I thought it would be. They say it is lying at a depth of 14,000 feet. I thought it was lying in about 10,000 feet of water. No matter, all the other Saturn 5 first stages are within a few hundred miles of each other because most flew the exact same trajectory. So the recoveries should get easier and cheaper as time progresses. That is if he continues.
Of course NASA is claiming that they still own the rocket stages so he will have to turn them over to NASA. The logic here tends to escape me on that one. But let’s review….Hmm, I throw something away into the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean for like 43 years, let it rot there and then you find it and pay to recover it and then you have to give it back to me. OK, oh yeah, now it makes sense to me…
I don’t know if Jeff reads my website or what but obviously he is smart enough to do something that will benefit the future of his personal space program which he calls Blue Origin. Refurbished 1.5 million pound thrust Rocketdyne LOX/Kerosene engines which are the most powerful and best ever built can always be an asset. The ones too munched to repair and re fly can always be visually dolled up and placed in museums for millions in cash or monstrous tax right offs.
Bingo…. Jeff you win! He shouldn’t have any problems with keeping the Saturn components the way I see it as maritime law states that they are up for salvage after having been left for that long at the bottom of the sea. Whatever happens, good luck Jeff and if you want to send me a check for my initial consulting work just give me a call and I will give you my address. Yeah, like that will happen…..Waldo