Blue Flame (car)
The Blue Flame was the rocket-powered vehicle driven by Gary Gabelich that achieved the world land speed record on Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 23, 1970. The vehicle set the FIA world record for the flying mile at 622.407 mph (1,001.667 km/h) and the flying kilometer at 630.388 mph (1,014.511 km/h). Blue Flame was constructed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Reaction Dynamics, a company formed by Pete Farnsworth, Ray Dausman and Dick Keller who had developed the first hydrogen peroxide rocket dragster, called the X-1 and driven by Chuck Suba. Blue Flame used a combination of high-test peroxide and liquified natural gas (LNG), pressurized by helium gas. The effort was sponsored by The American Gas Association, with technical assistance from the Institute of Gas Technology of Des Plaines, IL.
"Reaction Dynamics" was formed in 1965 and started out as "DFK Enterprises", for Dausman, Farnsworth and Keller. At that time Dick Keller worked part time as a research assistant into gas technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology, which was the research arm of the American Gas Association. Pete Farnsworth was a Top Fuel dragster racer.
The engine of Blue Flame was designed by Reaction Dynamics, Inc. and some of the components were manufactured by Galaxy Manufacturing Co. of Tonawanda, New York. Galaxy Mfg. Co. was formed in 1966 by Donald J Magro and Gerald Muhs and was principally engaged in flow control systems, cavitating venturi, and precision machining fields.
The Blue Flame engine is a regeneratively cooled, liquid-propellent engine of the variable thrust type. It can operate on either a single or dual-propellant basis. In operation, the engine permits natural gas use as a liquid or gas or both with a two-stage combustion start. The oxidizer flow is established first, then LNG enters a heat exchanger where it vaporizes and is brought to combustion temperature. The gas is then injected into the combustion chamber with the oxygen provided by the hydrogen peroxide. A stable flame front is established and the remaining LNG is injected to bring the engine to full power.
Nominal design engine running time was 20 seconds at full thrust of 22,500 pounds-force (100,000 N) generating the equivalent of 58,000 horsepower (43,000 kilowatts). Dick Keller stated that the Goodyear Tire Company restricted their top speed to 700 mph (1,126.541 km/h). Reaction Dynamics subsequently modified the LNG flow in the 2-stage LNG injector system to almost halve the maximum thrust. The actual thrust during the record runs was between 13,000 pounds (5,900 kilograms) [equivalent of 35,000 horsepower (26,000 kilowatts)] and 15,000 pounds (6,800 kilograms). According to Dick Keller the kilometer timing traps were inside the mile. The Blue Flame record runs involved accelerating continuously to the mile mid-point, then coasting through the mile. The peak speed, of approximately 650 mph (1,046.074 km/h) was reached at that point and then the vehicle decelerated the rest of the way. The kilometer speed trap was biased towards one end of the mile, resulting in the 8 mph (12.875 km/h) higher speed.
The frame of the Blue Flame is a semi-monocoque type aluminum, with welded tubular structure in the nose section and with an aluminum "skin." The vehicle is 37 feet 4.6 inches (11.394 m) long, 8 feet 1.5 inches (2.477 m) high to the top of the tail fin , 7 feet 8 inches (2.34 m) wide and the wheelbase is 306 inches (7.8 m). It has an empty weight of 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) and is approximately 6,600 pounds (3,000 kilograms) fully fueled and loaded. The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. designed 8:00-25 tires for the vehicle, with an outside diameter of 34.8 inches (880 mm) and smooth tire tread surface to help prevent heat buildup using Nitrogen gas at 350 pounds per square inch (24 bar). The Blue Flame is now on permanent exhibition at the Auto- and Technik Museum Sinsheim in Germany.
Land Speed Record
On 23 October 1970 at Bonneville, Gary Gabelich drove Blue Flame to a new record of 622.407 miles per hour (1,001.667 km/h) for the flying mile, 630.388 miles per hour (1,014.511 km/h) for the flying kilometre. According to the worldwide rules that govern land speed record attempts, a land speed mark is recognized only after two runs through the flying kilometre and measured mile clocks and both runs must be made within one hour.
The land speed record set by Blue Flame was broken on 4 October 1983 by Richard Noble driving his turbojet-powered Thrust2. This broke the mile record of 622.407 mph (1,001.667 km/h), raising it to 633.468 mph (1,019.468 km/h). The kilometer record of 630.388 mph (1,014.511 km/h) stood until ThrustSSC went supersonic in 1997, raising it to 760.343 mph (1,223.653 km/h).
- Break the Record - Official Blue Flame LSR video
- Speedquest - The Blue Flame movie from Dick Keller's personal collection that he released into the public domain in 2011
- Holthusen, Peter J.R. (1986). "Appendix 1: Land speed records". The Land Speed Record. Guild Publishing. p. 203.
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