Rocketing into the aerospace race

An intriguing slice of British leading-edge technology has thrust its way to the forefront

A rocket-propelled car, powered by a mixture of liquid nitrous oxide and chicken fat, delivers 4000 to 8000 lb (18 to 36kN) of thrust, has a power-to-weight ratio that is four to five times that of a Formula 1 racing car, yet is designed to be reliable and re-used over and over again.

British designed and built, by qualified engineers working with minimal funding and facilities, it has evolved as a demonstrator for technologies that open up some exciting opportunities in aerospace.

The Laffin-Gas rocket dragster is the brainchild of David Knight and Carolynne Campbell. Chief engineer Knight, who comes from a race engineering background, explains that the four rocket tubes are lined with thick cardboard, soaked in chicken fat.

“That’s biofuel!” he says. “It’s lit by a firework - the V2 was lit by a firework, too.”

A longer version of this feature will appear in the March issue of Eureka.

Tom Shelley

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