Record Breaking Rockets
A new chapter in the long and illustrious history at Westcott opened in 2011 with the arrival of the Falcon Project.
Led by its flamboyant young Founder and Managing Director, Daniel Jubb, with his trademark handlebar moustache, the company's heritage stems from the design and development of solid propellant rocket motors for commercial and military use.
29 year-old Daniel founded Falcon when he was just 11 years old in 1995, along with his grandfather Sid Guy.
Falcon Project currently employs 12 people, six of them at its Californian facility on the edge of the Mojave Desert, where it has been manufacturing solid, liquid and hybrid propellant rocket motors, as well as conducting research programmes into rocket engines. Daniel came to Westcott in June 2011 to: "establish a UK production and test facility".
Soon after its arrival at Westcott, the company was filmed by the BBC in its science TV show Bang Goes The Theory, conducting a trial rocket firing. It was reported as one of the largest motors to be fired on site for a good few years.
The Falcon Project has designed and manufactured the largest hybrid rocket to be produced in the UK, is leading research into hybrid fuel grain composition geometry and also designs and manufactures HTP monopropellant systems, including turbopumps.
Despite not being able to discuss many of Falcon Project's top secret ventures, one of Daniel’s core objectives for a once media shy company, is to inspire the next generation of scientists through one of the most exciting record breaking projects to come out of the UK.
The BLOODHOUND Project aims to set a new land speed record of 1,000mph in a car powered by a jet engine and rocket with Wing Commander Andy Green, at the helm.
As product sponsor for BLOODHOUND, Falcon Project has developed the 10,000 lb. (44 kN) thrust monopropellant chamber and 27,500 lb. (122 kN) thrust hybrid rocket, which will use a Cosworth Formula One engine to drive the rocket oxidizer pump. The hybrid rocket specifically developed for the project is the largest ever designed in Europe and in conjunction with the jet engine should propel the car to a top speed of 1,050mph. But there’s a lot more to the project than four-figure speed. “The main objective is to create an iconic programme to inspire young people. We want to involve them in that sector so they go into aerospace, renewable power, mathematics, science, engineering, technology – all areas where the UK needs large numbers of skilled people,” explains Daniel.
The hope is for a similar surge of interest to that which occurred in the USA in the 1960s during the Apollo Moon landing project, when the number of students studying for PhDs rose from 10,000 to 30,000.
“We can use BLOODHOUND to enliven all aspects of the school curriculum. Kids can look at something and say: 'Why would I need to think about something like that?' And you could give them some dull and uninteresting reason. Or we could say: 'Well actually this is what we needed to look for in BLOODHOUND, when we wanted to design a wheel to go at 1,000mph, for example.' All of a sudden the equations gain a significance, and give children the enthusiasm to pursue the subject. That's the BLOODHOUND Effect.
“We have determined that 1,000mph is technically possible, although the zone between 763mph, the current record, and 1,000mph is completely unknown.
“So this is not an engineering project, it's an engineering adventure. To be iconic, you need to be bold, so you need to set that 1,000mph target. What happens if we get to 990mph and we can't go any faster, have we failed?
“Well, if we get 1,050mph, and nobody is interested, we have failed. If we get to around 900mph, and we have provided the inspiration for the next generation, we’ve succeeded.”
BLOODHOUND plan to take the car out to the straight, dead-flat twelve-mile test site at Hakskeen Pan, in the NW corner of South Africa in 2015. “We're not charging headlong for the 1,000. In 2015 we aim to break the current record, and then we'll be back in 2016 to push it up to 1,000mph.”
Westcott Neighbourhood Watch
Set within 34 acres, Daniel hopes Falcon will not disturb its neighbours at Westcott during static testing, although longer-term tenants will remember when the really loud, if short-lived, noise of rockets being tested, was not so unusual.
“We don’t want to upset anybody or cause problems on site. We will be incrementally increasing the size of the motors that we fire. So if anybody feels that the noise is excessive, they should let us know and we'll try our best to mitigate it.
“The site we are on is obviously not as big as it used to be, and we have other people closer. We want to do our best to keep the noise within reason. But it’s going to be infrequent and of relatively short duration.”
Daniel is very happy to be at Westcott and appreciates the support provided when Falcon Project first moved to the park.
With sheer determination and Westcott's support, Falcon has permission to test on site and is licensed for propellant manufacture, assembly and dismantling of rocket motors and storage of rocket motors and propellants, enabling the company to offer an unrivalled service to the military and commercial clients in the UK.
Daniel is also conscious that he and his company are following in very august footsteps. “I spent a lot of time at the Public Records Office, trawling through technical reports from Black Knight to Blue Streak, and I am aware of most of the research done here on these and other rockets, under the aegis of the Rockets Propulsion Establishment, and its subsequent incarnations.”
“In sharp contrast to the Mojave Desert; we are surrounded by the beautiful rolling English countryside. That sounds to me like a conducive environment in which to do some really valid research and advance the technology.”
And that handlebar moustache? He started growing it, described as a flying officer, General Kitchener-type moustache, when he was a teenager, and it’s been there ever since...