Press Release 2

Jason's CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

Jason’s CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

Thursday 10th Nov 2014

Release Date: IMMEDIATE

Press Release: A New Australian Spacecraft Begins Concept Testing

Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Project ThunderStruck is the brainchild of Australian aerospace entrepreneur Robert Brand. The craft, code-named ThunderStruck is a small winged spacecraft able to re-enter the atmosphere from orbit and land on a runway with a small payload. In fact it is being designed around the premise of being the smallest craft to be stable enough to re-enter and land safely.

The first test is negotiating the transonic phase (the speed of sound) scheduled for April 2015 and it is expected to reach a top speed of over 2,000kph or approaching Mach 2.

The concept testing will be in three phases:

  • Transonic Testing (April 2015)
  • Sounding rocket to space and land (Dec 2016)
  • De-orbiting and landing (5-6 years away)

This is not a rocket and needs to be launched to space aboard a commercial rocket. The craft will be capable of  maneuvering in earth orbit and de-orbiting. It will need an ion engine to go further about the solar system and could service the asteroid miners providing taxi services for returning samples back to earth.

Depending on the outcome of tests and limitations of weight vs size, the payload should be somewhere between 10 to 50kgs. The craft is not expected to be reused if it has been in orbit as the cost of refurbishment of a craft twill likely exceed the cost of a new craft. A craft that has been sent to space on a sounding rocket will not need a heat shield and may be reused.

Project ThunderStruck has support from many aerospace companies and sponsorship will be announced shortly.

The transonic phase will conducted by remote control and it will be a global news event as it will break many world and Australian records. As it will break the sound barrier, sonic booms will be heard. It will need to be launched over a remote area of Australia for the first test and it will have live TV coverage of the event. Cameras on the balloon will show the ThunderStruck aircraft drop on its dive to break the sound barrier. Cameras in the front of the aircraft will display the cockpit view and overlay instruments on the video allowing the pilot on the ground to fly the craft. Missile grade GPS will record and relay the speed of the craft to the ground.

Australia built their own orbital craft back in 1967 and launched it on a spare rocket left over from US testing at Woomera. There has not been a substantial spacecraft built in Australia since that time. There have been cubesats and other small amateur radio craft, but this is a huge departure from just placing small payloads in orbit. This will be the first craft that will be capable maneuvering and the first to have long range capability. There are almost no winged re-entry craft capable of de-orbiting. There is one US military spacecraft and another NASA sponsored craft being built. ThunderStruck is looking to service small payloads and will not compete with other craft.

A mission control centre will be created in Sydney and a backup in another site outside of Australia. The craft will be sold as a service and not a device. It will provide significant employment in the aerospace sector and support companies. At this time most aerospace graduates leave Australia due to poor employment prospects.



Contact:   Robert Brand – contact@projectthunderstruck   Australia: 0448881101     Int’l:+61 448881101 – leave a message if not answered.

Photos of Robert Brand on the Project ThunderStruck webpage are available for publication as is the logo and the CAD images of the aircraft.

Robert Brand: Leading Australian space entrepreneur, Senior Adviser for Team Stellar, ex-OTC staff member, amateur radio operator, Public Speaker on Innovation, Social Media and Space with a focus on Australian Space. Proud father of three amazing kids.

Worked on Apollo 11 equipment at 17 years old, supported Apollo missions, Voyager missions, Shuttle missions and ESA’s Giotto mission to Halleys Comet. Several times he was stationed at the Parkes Radio Telescope.

With his son Jason he has launched 21 high altitude balloon mission and recovered all 21 – two of them were in Croatia. He has designed a mechanism to turn a weather balloon into a zero pressure balloon during flight. Many of the balloon flight have been commercial flights for customers.

Balloon Flight with ThunderStruck

Apollo 11 Interview

Spaceflight-Cover-2014-12(Widget)From Apollo 11 to ThunderStruck

by Robert Brand

It seems that an interview on my life in the space sector has been published. My good friend Nick Howes from the UK did the interview. It concentrates on my Apollo 11 work at the age of 17. No big deal, but it was pivotal in my life I guess and set the scene for what followed and ultimately the ThunderStruck spacecraft. The interview can be found in the magazine of the British Interplanetary Society.

Spaceflight Vol 56 No 12 – December 2014

The teaser for the interview says:

Nick Howes tells the intriguing story of a boy gripped by space and who went on to play an important part in the Apollo 11 story.

A little exchange from Facebook.

  • Robert Brand Seems that this is me:
    Nick Howes tells the intriguing story of a boy gripped by space and who went on to play an important part in the Apollo 11 story.
  • Nick Howes Proud to call you a friend, proud to know you… as you should be proud of all you have done… thanks buddy!
  • Robert Brand … and now building his own spacecraft easily capable of circumnavigating the moon and returning to land on earth. A funny and unexpected ending, given that 3 years ago I had no intention of doing anything like this!
  • Nick Howes As I said “pivotal” in so many ways…

Building a Workshop for ThunderStruck

Building the ThunderStruck Workshop3A Space Grade Workshop

Every boy and every man needs their man cave. Jason’s and my man cave has a  digital TV, radio and a small fridge.  That is where the frivolous part of our work gear ends. The rest is state of the art technology for building a spacecraft. As you know Jason has a big event in April next year – yes we are again trying for April 2015. He will be trying to break the sound barrier with a 2.5m long delta winged glider launched from over 41Km altitude. The trick is to be able to control it and to land it. There are three or four phases to his project, but none the less, the ultimate aim is a working spacecraft and you can’t just build those in your back shed…. or can you? There are three stages to the concept testing:

  • Transonic – Jason’s upcoming flight
  • Sounding rocket return from space – straight up and down
  • Re-entry from orbit

I am betting that with the right equipment I could build all three stages in my garage. I doubt that it will come to that and I expect stage three to be built in a well equipped laboratory and workshop. None the less stage 2 will go into space and i will probably do a lot of the early work right here, so our workshop has to be state of the art and we are starting out with a strip of test points right next to our workbench.

These are the test points and systems for building and testing the electronics of ThunderStruck. On the other side of the garage, we will be building the airframe and will have a bench with a frame to rotate the fuselage so that we can access every part of the craft. It will be nearly 3 metres long. The systems shown here are for mains; DC power, network; audio; antennas, signal generation, receivers, transmitters; amplifiers; earth; USB and much more. Out of site on the left will be a servo test panel for the digital systems for the ThunderStruck craft. That is Jason enjoying finishing the test panel.

It is also where Jason keeps his HF radio, so the workbench doubles for Amateur Radio activities. We will soon have an iGate for and VHF APRS gateway and a great place to as we dominate a hilltop in the heart of Sydney. Fellow Amateur Radio operators will know what I am talking about. That is Jason below with his radio. Behind Jason is our 50 volt and 12 volt supply rack and battery banks as well as many of our radio systems. There are two racks and to the right of them is a cupboard with about 32 draws for our smaller items.

Building the ThunderStruck Workshop

Below you can see the upper part of the test gear rack has a long way to go. Top left is our general computer – mainly for Internet access, top centre is our laboratory power supply. The bench is currently half width. As we toss out some old rubbish, we will be able to rid the area of equipment and double the width of the workbench

Building the ThunderStruck Workshop2

The moment we completed the work today, Jason built a Styrofoam aircraft out of scrap and he intends it to fly. None the less, the workshop is shaping up to be a phenomenal asset for building spacecraft. …..and what do two guys do with a spacecraft ready workshop? An easy guess – Build ThunderStruck of course.

About Jason – by his Father

IMG_3215A Father’s Point of View

by Robert Brand

There is no doubt that my son Jason has a talent. He is tenacious. Once he sets his mind to do something, he does not stop until he has it completed. Project ThunderStruck is one of those goals. He has the knowledge and experience in every aspect of the mission and although it seems daunting, he can put it together for a successful outcome. Let’s breakdown the stages of the mission:

  • Balloon flight to over 40Km altitude
  • Radio telemetry and control
  • Supersonic flight
  • Autonomous landing
  • Celebrations –  well we are all good at this, so enough said!

Balloon flight to over 40Km altitude

Jason started launching balloons with me at 9 years old and after the first flight and successful recovery he was hooked. As of the date of this post we have jointly launched and recovered 21 payloads including 2 in Croatia. He has battled large balloons with heavy payloads in 70kph ground winds and used 3kg weather balloons to take heavy payloads to 1/3 the way to space (33.33Km). He is the tracker and navigator that sits in the passenger seat while I drive. He has the tablets/iPads, phones, navigation systems and radio systems. I just get to do the driving. At 12 years old he is now a capable navigator comfortable on remote rural back roads, dirt tracks, farm roads and worse. Not bad for a city boy. I trust him to know his stuff and I now consider him to be a strong partner with me in the UpLift flights. He understands zero pressure balloons, and like me has yet to fly one, but I have no doubt that he will have the skill to make it happen when the time comes. The picture above shows Jason launching our first balloon and payload from Rankins Springs, NSW.

Radio telemetry and control

At age 9, Jason went and passed his Foundation Amateur Radio License test. He went to a course at Waverley Amateur Radio Club and passed his exam. The rest of the group studying were adults and some had to come back to try again and I am happy to say that they eventually passed. Jason now has his own HF radio at home and is learning advanced electronics. He has test equipment such as a spectrum analyser, oscilloscope, laboratory power supplies and a large number of radio systems to play with. He will be getting his advanced license soon enough. Until then he has to operate under the license of an advanced operator by his side. None the less he is capable of the work of building interfaces and items essential to his project.

Supersonic flight

Well, not many people have that experience and most UAVs are subsonic. There would only be a handful of people in the world that would have controlled a supersonic UAV. Jason will practice on simulations and some powered models to understand the responsiveness of the craft. He will get that experience before the event.

Autonomous landing

Salt Lake_1_main

We have a great sponsor – soon to be announced that will assist in educating Jason and me about their system. We may land on a salt lake marked with vegetable dye and Jason may take over the landing at the last minute. There is a lot to understand about the accuracy of autonomous landings, but autonomous flight will be simple. Why have autonomous flight. Simple, the site at which Jason breaks the sound barrier may be a long way from the landing site and he will have to travel there by car. He will place it in autonomous mode and then go to the landing site. The landing site might be a long way away as the Jet Stream can produce strong winds. Our balloons have experienced winds up to 230kph. Why take over the landing? It is simply the error that may exist in the GPS of altitude. If it is not accurate enough, Jason may have to intervene to ensure that it does not flare out will it is 10m above the ground or worse still 10m below the ground – that would make a big crunch after a magnificent flight. We will have to discuss native rights to the salt lakes and ensure that we are not stepping on indigenous toes with all of this. There are many aspects to consider, including ensuring we are not in trunk airline routes. Why a salt lake? Well, it may be easier than finding an airfield away from any population and it is flat all around. If you go off the runway, then it is still flat!

A quick Summary of the Project and Jason:

I had to recently summarise the project and Jason

Jason overheard me, his father, talking about the testing phases of a winged re-entry vehicle that we are building and the three testing phases: Transition to subsonic flight, return from space, de-orbit and land. He effectively “hijacked” the transonic testing phase. He proposed a zero pressure balloon to take the aircraft (code named ThunderStruck) to over 40km altitude and release it. He will pilot it remotely by radio control with a TV camera in the cockpit and instruments overlaid on the screen. He will “see” the view from the cockpit by wearing video googles as if he is there. Thunderstruck will reach speed of around 2,000kph before landing using nothing more than gravity. He has to demonstrate control at all phases of the flight.

Sponsorship Levels Announced

Sponsor Benefits

This project is arguably one of the global certainties to get extreme press coverage. There is little chance of failure, especially since every aspect of the flight will be tested in advance. Several announcements will receive global coverage along the way and TV interviews will be common both in Australia and overseas. On the day of the big event, the story will be world news and carried in most first world countries. It will be exhibited along the way at prestigious events such as air shows and is even expected to have a documentary made for the entire build-up to the big event. Jason will also be put up for achievement awards such as the youth Eureka award. All of this combined will produce unprecedented opportunities for sponsors and their ability to tell their story.

Want to be a sponsor? – contact us via email at

Phone International: +61 448881101 Australia: 0448 881 101

We thank those sponsors that have committed early to our project. they are the key to being able to do early testing and purchase of the necessary equipment. To fly our equipment on a balloon to test it, it takes a weekend of our time and about $2,000 dollars in cash. The balloons can cost over $500 and the gas over $500. We have the 1,500km travel, accommodation, food and much more. A burst balloon can cost us $1,000 before we even launch!

x 10
x 4
x 2
x 1
Mission Patches36912
Tee Shirts + Caps2345
Name and Logo on WebsiteTier 4Tier 3Tier 2Tier 1
Autographed Photo2345
Have us talk at your event *NO - we will quoteNO - we will quoteYESYES x 2
Name / Logo on ThunderStruck15cm x 15cm
x 1
30cm x 15cm
x 1
30cm x 15cm
x 2
2nd Choice of Position **
30cm x 30cm
x 2
1st Choice of Position **
Name on Sponsor Stand; Backdrops and Slides setsYES SmallestYES MediumYES LargeYES Largest
Opportunity to speak at the press conferenceNONOYESYES
Opportunity to Speak at the post success Dinner in SydneyYes - 2 minsYES - 4 minsYES - 6 minsYES - 10 mins
Sponsorship plaque YESYESYESYES
Your Logo on our dress overallsYESYESYESYES x 2
Press the big red release button ***NONONOYES

Become our Platinum Sponsor and launch ThunderStruck!

Become our Platinum Sponsor and launch ThunderStruck!

* Conditions Apply – travel, etc handled by the sponsor.

** First in each sponsorship level gets first choice

*** You are invited to the launch as our guest and you will release ThunderStruck on its supersonic flight. Transport for two is covered on all travel within Australia and accommodation twin share.

Media Coverage of Sponsors

We will have a massive TV, Radio, Press and online coverage of this event at many different times in the project. The sooner that you are a sponsor, the more benefit you will have. The announcements along the way and the event coverage will generate a huge interest and get our sponsors’ names in the media.

At each event, we will display our sponsor’s list in a foldable banner


Bronze Sponsors:

PlusComms Pty Limited (Australia)

PlusComms scaled Down Banner Logo - Bronze Sponsor

A Leader in Communications technology, Space Communications, Mining Communications and tunnel communications including AM and FM Radio ReBroadcast – suitable for car parks.

Team Stellar

GLXP_Team_Logo_Stellar Bronze Sponsor

A Google Lunar X Prize Team and strong supporter of our endeavours.