The Aussie Invader 5R rocket-car will attempt to break the land speed record next year, a spokesperson for the project has revealed to CarAdvice.
Founder and designer Rosco McGlashan (pictured below) will reportedly pilot the 16-metre long nine-tonne steel-framed vehicle to its target top speed of 1000mph (1609km/h). While a location is yet to be finalised, initial test runs will likely take place in the Queensland or Western Australian desert.
Built by a team of Perth-based engineers, the 5R is powered by a single bi-propellant rocket reportedly capable of producing upwards of 62,000lbs of thrust. For reference, this roughly equates to 149,000kW (or the power of 2128 Volkswagen Polo hatchbacks).
In-house computer modelling suggests this will be enough launch the car from 0-100km/h in approximately 1.1 seconds, on the way to 1609km/h in less than half a minute. During that period, the rocket will have burnt through 2.8 tonnes of liquid propellant and oxygen at more than 1000 degrees Celsius.
The vehicle’s 35-inch tireless wheels – which weigh 140kg each – are made of solid aluminium to cope with an extraordinary 50,000g expected to be enacted on the outer rims at full speed.
When it comes to slowing down, the process is just as challenging – while it will take more than 5km to reach top speed, more than 13km will be required to stop. As such, deceleration will be achieved through a multi-stage deployment of high-speed hydraulic air brakes, mid-speed parachutes, and low-speed disc brakes.
“We are very confident that we can break the record [which currently sits at 1223.7km/h], and push the car onto 1000mph [1609km/h]… we believe that this is the best designed car ever to attempt the record,” Mark Read – the project's media director – said.
“We have developed things that have never been done before all from a workshop in Perth, and managed to draw many of the world's leading minds in engineering, science, aerodynamics and rocketry, all who have wanted to be involved because they love what we are doing.”
However, Daniel Edgington-Mitchell – a senior lecturer in mechanical & aerospace engineering at Monash University – told CarAdvice the Aussie Invader team faced some significant hurdles: “Firstly, just overcoming the drag at that kind of velocity requires a huge amount of power and thrust. Travelling at 1000mph is going to produce approximately one hundred times more drag than at 100mph – that's a huge increase in the power requirements for the vehicle.
“Even if you have the power to overcome the drag, stability may be a bigger problem. As the vehicle approaches the speed of sound, some of the airflow around the car will become supersonic, even if the car itself is not yet travelling at supersonic speeds. Once the flow is supersonic, shock waves start to form, which can create very unusual pressure distributions on the vehicle. This is a nightmare from a control and stability perspective.”
Despite the challenges, Mr Edgington-Mitchell said he believed the top speed project is viable.
“We have already seen a jet-powered car break the sound barrier, and if that is doable, I believe 1000mph is doable as well. These are not insoluble engineering problems, they are just very very difficult. If you can get a rocket engine with sufficient thrust-to-weight ratio, and carefully design the shape of your vehicle, from an aerodynamic perspective there is no reason these speeds – or even faster – cannot be achieved. It remains a monumental engineering challenge however.”
Rosco McGlashan is already the holder of the Australian land speed record – in 1994 he clocked 802.6kmh behind the wheel of a jet-powered predecessor to the Aussie Invader 5R on the dry salt flats of Lake Gairdner, near Adelaide.
The outright land speed record is presently held by former-British fighter pilot Andy Green, who averaged 1223.7kmh – and broke the sound barrier – driving Richard Noble’s Thrust SSC in the Nevada desert in 1997.
To see the full gallery of noew Aussie Invader 5R photos and renders – supplied by Clint Davis and the Perth-based team – click any of the images in this story and scroll through the gallery.