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State-of-the-art rocket-powered motorcycle sells on eBay

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February 2, 2013

A close look at the business end of Glenn Brittian's rocket motorcycle (Photo: Glenn Britt...

A close look at the business end of Glenn Brittian's rocket motorcycle (Photo: Glenn Brittian)

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A state-of-the-art rocket-powered motorcycle that was recently advertised for sale on eBay has been sold to Gerd Habermann Racing. Engineered to hit speeds in excess of 400 mph (640 km/h) during the quarter-mile, the bike was designed and built by Glenn Brittian, one of the few drivers licensed by the National Hot Rod Association to drive a rocket dragster. The asking price was US$27,000, but the actual selling price has not been made public.

While we tend to think of manned rockets in terms of spaceflight, adventurers have been using them to power other vehicles for nearly a century. In the late 1920s, Fritz von Opel, of the Opel automobile family, built rocket cars, rocket trains, rocket gliders, rocket snow sleds, and the first known attempt at creating a rocket-powered motorcycle, imaginatively called the Raketen Motorrad (RM – Rocket Motorcycle).

Side view of a modern replica of Fritz von Opel's Raketen Motorrad (Photo: Joris Bergsma)

Side view of a modern replica of Fritz von Opel's Raketen Motorrad (Photo: Joris Bergsma)

The RM was built on a 500cc Opel Neander SuperSport motorcycle. The Opel Neander was propelled by a one-cylinder 500cc engine that produced a massive 22 hp. Opel modified the Opel Neander by adding mounts for six (later fourteen) rockets fueled with compressed smokeless powder. The estimated top speed was 220 km/h (140 mph), but a full speed run was never attempted due to the intervention of the Weimar government, which thought the whole idea was too dangerous.

Side view of rocket motorcycle (Photo: Glenn Brittian)

Side view of rocket motorcycle (Photo: Glenn Brittian)

Many other rocket motorcycles have been made since that time, some for racing and speed, and a few to support motorcycle jumps. Brittian's rocket motorcycle is designed as a dragster from the frame outwards – it is not intended to turn under power, nor will it run more than quarter-mile time trials and drag races. It is built for one thing alone – speed.

Dual nozzles attached to combustion chamber (Photo: Glenn Brittian)

Dual nozzles attached to combustion chamber (Photo: Glenn Brittian)

Brittian's rocket motorcycle is powered by a dual nozzle rocket engine providing a design maximum of 3500 pounds (15.6 kN) of thrust. When running at that thrust it eats about 30 lb (14 kg) of fuel every second, sucking the fuel tank dry after the few seconds of a quarter-mile drag. The rocket engine uses high-test (80-98 percent pure) hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide does not burn when used in a rocket engine, but passes by a catalyst that makes it decompose into water and oxygen. The water released is converted into steam at about 1100° F (870° C), which then exits through the nozzle producing thrust.

It has become nearly impossible in recent years to buy high-test hydrogen peroxide (in the United States sales to the public have even been banned by the Department of Homeland Security), so it is often concentrated by various methods. As the concentration process is perhaps more dangerous than handling and using hydrogen peroxide, it is not to be undertaken lightly.

This series of photographs taken during construction show many additional details of the rocket system as well as the bike itself. The motorcycle has been tested with a smaller engine producing about half the thrust, and has hit speeds in excess of 220 mph (354 km/h) in the quarter-mile. The full design that Mr. Habermann has bought is designed to hit speeds of over 400 mph (640 km/h) in the quarter mile. The real question is can the rider hold on at such speeds? Time will tell, if the bike doesn't blow up first!

Source: Rocket Crusade via eBay

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
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9 Comments

As the writer of the Ebay listing,

I would just like to clarify a few things.

First, as the article states, this Bike was specifically built for Breaking Motorcycle Drag Racing Records.

The current Top Fuel Dragster Record is still well below 350mph.

On dragstrips, bikes and cars really do not have the shutdown area to safely stop from 400mph and if that speed was reached with this Bike, stopping would be especially difficult, even with the parachute, since the Rocket provides no engine braking.

Only one car has ever passed the 400mph Mark in the Quarter Mile and that was by Kitty O'Neil at a special course set up at the El Mirage Dry Lake course.... long ago in 1977.

Out there in the desert, shut down area is not so much a problem.

Due to fuel capacity, track length,tires and other factors, this Bike is specifically built to be The First Bike to Break the 300mph Mark

on the Dragstrip AND The First Bike to ever get into the 4 second bracket in The Quarter Mile.

The Goal is ALSO to exceed 311mph- That is the current Record for The World's Fastest "Ride on Top" Motorcycle, (as opposed to enclosed Streamliners) set at the Loring,Maine LSR event.

The Motor makes The Power (the equivalent of 7,000HP!) to push the Bike to 400mph- but The Power is obviously only part of the challenge.

The current Record for the Fastest Drag Bike Speed&Time is 5.2sec@249mph by Eric Taboul at Santa Pod,England on 5/31/2010.

That was done with a Rocket Engine the size of our smaller test engine and is considerably faster(by drag racing standards) than Larry McBride's NHRA Drag Record on a piston-powered bike.

Our Dominator motor is much larger than Eric T.'s

and now it's time to make Motorcycle and Drag Racing history.

The $27,000 mark was the opening bid on a no reserve auction. Terms were agreed to before any bids were made and the auction was closed.

The actual selling price will not be disclosed by the sellers.

Thanks,Brian,

for that extra history on Rocket Bikes!

Thanks to everybody for checking this out and remember: Dream BIG! ....and don't listen to

"experts" without experience!

Griffin
3rd February, 2013 @ 07:07 pm PST

One last interesting&important note-

this bike essentially runs on slightly modifed water.

A Hydrogen-peroxide molecule(H2O2)

is only one Oxygen atom away from Water(H2O).

The Engine uses no oil and truly produces ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS!

Modest heat&electricity is used in the fuel refining process-

power from "the grid" is not even necessary.

This is a MUCH cleaner,greener form of Motorsports!

Griffin
3rd February, 2013 @ 07:24 pm PST

"Historical accidents and incidents involving hydrogen peroxide are reviewed and presented. These hydrogen peroxide events are associated with storage, transportation, handling, and disposal and they include exposures, fires, and explosions. Understanding the causes and effects of these accident and incident examples may aid personnel currently working with hydrogen peroxide to mitigate and perhaps avoid similar situations. Lessons learned, best practices, and regulatory compliance information related to the cited accidents and incidents are also discussed. "

http://naca.larc.nasa.gov/search.jsp?R=20050217417&qs=N%3D4294865159%2B4294459263

joe1946
4th February, 2013 @ 06:03 am PST

Soooo, can someone calculate the G force for accelerating from 0 to 400 MPH over 1320' (1/4 mile, I can't, but I presume it's easy) ?

Would all the riders blood go into the legs and butt, and the rider loose consciousness, or is the time period too short for a blackout, would a G-Suit help ?

Would the riders head remain attached to his body? Maybe some nice girdle to keep the stuff in front from compressing the spine to a 4" long pile of calcium. Yeah I'm ridiculous, my question is , how are the limitations of the human body addressed? It seems like the extreme performance is going to have an impact on anyone, no mater their size or shape.

Dave B13
4th February, 2013 @ 06:22 am PST

How does one hold onto the handle bars at that acceleration?

JAT
4th February, 2013 @ 08:13 am PST

Dave B13, a good question. If you assume constant acceleration, and a quarter-mile speed of 400 mph, elapsed time is 4.52 seconds, and the acceleration is right about 4 g's. As for holding on and losing consciousness, I'll leave that to the intrepid rider!

bdodson
4th February, 2013 @ 11:13 am PST

Much thanks for the calc bdodson. Standing on the ground is 1 G , a 60 degree bank in airplane or car is 2 G , a competition aerobatic loop (looks like a circle, and a script e) is a little more than 4 G , non-aerobatic aircraft designed to go up to 4 G without coming apart. Military Pilots can be subject to very brief exposures up to about 9 G.

Aerobatic Pilots don't typicaly have any controls modified for hanging onto them during high G loads, so per your calc I would expect the rider would not have extreme difficulty staying on the bike during a ride, but that verticle chunk on the body behind the seat, will be the seat.

Dave B13
1st March, 2013 @ 11:16 am PST

Doh!

"(looks like a circle, and a script e)"

should be (looks like a circle NOT a script letter e) a loop that looks like a script letter e would be called a barn stormers loop. It would recieve a very poor grade at an aerobatic competition.

The competition loop would be a close to a circle as a pilot could get it. it would be high G force on the pull-up and the pull out with very little G force and slow speed across the top. The barnstormer loop could involve about as high G force as a competition loop, it's time across the top would be tiny and fast. Not that this has anything to do with the rocket powered motorcycle, just a correction.

Dave B13
11th March, 2013 @ 07:57 am PDT

All I could think of to add to comments is that you definitely would not want to risk a curry outing the night before your drag run! The use of Kimbies or other form of containment would probably be recommended anyway, with that amount of G force running from head to butt!

The Skud
28th April, 2013 @ 08:36 pm PDT
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