ThunderStruck Models Set the Scene

1/15 model from 3D Printer using Grey Stock

1/15 model from 3D Printer using Grey Stock

ThunderStruck Models Make it Clear to Everyone

by Robert Brand

This is the week the world’s press get to actually see what the Phase One test vehicle will look like. we now have 2 models nearing completion – just waiting for the paint to dry. We have a a 1/15 model and 1/6 model. The 1/15 model is printed directly from a printer in 3 parts. The 1/6 model is made from a 100mm diameter sewage pipe and wooden wings. They are not the right thickness and they are not razor sharp, but it will allow TV cameras to get up close and personal.

Bruce Boler and Jason Brand with ThunderStruck Phase One 1/6 Model

Bruce Boler and Jason Brand with ThunderStruck Phase One 1/6 Model

Unfortunately the paint is still drying and we cannot get the detail on the outside, so it will be pure white for the moment. The image to the left shows Bruce Boler and Jason Brand with the 1/6 model under construction. Bruce is the engineering genius and his model is immaculate and very strong. Now we have something to show the media when they arrive and one TV station arrives tomorrow so we are meeting the deadline.

It has been a real team effort. I have drawn the plans, Ben Hockley has printed the Nose Cone and Bruce has put it together. As I type this, the finished model is drying the last coat of paint on Bruce’s work bench.

Bruce Boler Spray Painting the Phase One model

Bruce Boler Spray Painting the Phase One model

At this time, we only have a white top coat and no trim, but it is a thing of beauty. We will not have time to add any trim before the major TV interview tomorrow at 4pm. The interview will take time to assemble and so it may not make it to air for a week or so and also they are making an animation video of he flight path. We are hoping that all of this will inspire others to either get involved or get behind what we are doing.


That is me on the left. I really wanted to pick the model up, but it was covered in wet paint. The only question left for us and it is a major one: What colour should we make the aircraft. White is not a great colour if you want to see it in the skies with the naked eye, but it looks great with the right tri20150224_164901m colours and it does not conflict with any logos, names and other stick-ons.

That is Jason on the right with a wide grin. For him this is really coming together with a rush this week. Jason is still in his school uniform. A concept that will be strange to many countries. It was sports afternoon and Jason does rock climbing, so shorts and a tee-shirt. It is summer here in Sydney.

Phase One Thunderstruck 1/6 nosecone

Phase One Thunderstruck 1/6 nosecone

The nose cone on the left is the new design. A little longer and a little curved on the transition to the fuselage. I have not put the full set of measurements in the diagram, but Ben turned it into a thing of beauty with his 3D printer and it now sits on top of the large model.

Prototypes will mean change, but it will be only minor changes from this basic design. The craft will have a camera in the nosecone for the forward view for the remote control pilot. We will also add a camera into the rudder area on one side so that we can get a better view in flight of the craft. Jason will control the camera switching from his remote control unit. The new image will still be overlaid with the On Screen Display of the flight instruments. Below is the model drying for its first display on National TV tomorrow.

ThunderStruck Phase One 1/6 model

ThunderStruck Phase One 1/6 model

3D Files and ThunderStruck Phase One

Thunderstruck Half Scale3D Files, Printers, simulations and More

by Robert brand

In the past we used wind tunnels and that was fine for subsonic flights. ThunderStruck does have access to wind tunnels at a number of establishments, but it is unlikely that we will need them. In part because supersonic wind tunnels are rare and because subsonic tests do not translate to supersonic conditions. Why wont we need them? Simply because computer modelling allows us to test most things extremely accurately without  the need for wind tunnels. The first part of the equation is to “make” a 3D model of the airframe and from that the options are extraordinary. Simulations of wind tunnels are just one option. What else can you do with the computer files of your model? well, we are not doing everything possible, but here are a few things:

  • Produced images of the ThunderStruck craft in solid form (we use Solidworks)
  • Rendered the surface to appear metallic
  • Added the ThunderStruck Logo and artwork
  • Animated the control surfaces on the craft
  • Sent it to a TV animator who will use the flight profile to simulate the mission
  • Made 3D models of the craft with a 3D printer.
  • Made a scaled nose cone for the 1/6th size model for demonstrations. Nose cones are immensely hard to create, but so easy with a 3D printer
  • And finally (so far) carried out Mach 2 flight simulations
Thunderstruck Phase One plans and view

Thunderstruck Phase One plans and view 1/2 scale

These simulations show up any problems and thus they have already resulted in small changes to the Phase One craft design. The biggest change will be a longer and more slender nose. You will see why in a moment.

One the right are the original plans from three sides. The software automatically creates the view (top right of image). The 3D files are then produced and it is often that simple. Everything flows from the files. The extension for the files is STL. A printer may break the files up to print an object in two, three or more parts. It depends on the size of object a printer can handle.  we wanted a 22cm model of thunderstruck and that was printed in three parts as it was too wide and two high. The parts were simply joined with acetate. It melts the material slightly and the pieces are then welded together without glue.

The solid image looks like this with a little bit of shadow and a plain surface. A “light source” is placed where needed to create essential shadows for the right feel and look.

The image above has been created to appear to sit on a grey surface. Remove that surface and add a metallic texture and a background image and you get this:

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight. Credit Ben Hockley (ThunderStruck) and NASA (clouds and Moon)

The video below shows an animation for the control surfaces. Nothing much to see other than we are working on getting the smaller bits right for the big animations. You can also see our logo on the side so this is a two in one demonstration

Below is a rough picture of the printed 22cm model and the Nose Cone needed for our TV interview on Wednesday with Channel 7 (The Seven Network, Australia). It will be painted. If you look closely you will see the nose cone join and similarly you will see the join on the 3D model.

22cm ThunderStruck Phase One model and the nose cone on the right

22cm ThunderStruck Phase One model and the nose cone on the right

Below is the plan for the nosecone and it is simple to reproduce. Notice the curved area near the base of the nose cone. This is to ease the airflow over the surface and prevent the delamination of the airflow.

Phase One Thunderstruck 1.6 nosecone

Finally we can do simulations. I will explain what you are looking at below in the next post but wow this stuff is impressive. This si not the top end software, but just a basic system and it is more than adequate for our needs:


Most of the work on this page has been provided by Team Member Ben Hockley of Brisbane. I am grateful that we have a person with his skills in the team.


2022 Mars Delta-V Requirements

Navigation – Earth to Mars Delta V

by Tim Blaxland – Introduction by Robert Brand

I have not yet introduced you to our Navigation chief Tim Blaxland and I will do that soon enough. Let us just say that he knows his stuff. When I was requested to make Mars the destination of the first shakedown flight of the ion engine equipped ThunderStruck craft in 2022, here was his initial response. This may go over a few heads, but it may be important for you to know that we have the ability to actually do the work required. What we don’t know about building and operating a spacecraft will be firmly supported by the right staff with the right experience and credentials – when the time comes. Until then, please understand that we are a capable team and soon to become a space sector company. I hope that you find this email interesting. I will post some orbital pictures when we have them ready for publication in a week or so..

The importance of this work was to ensure that 2022 provided a window of opportunity to leave for Mars. Here is Tim’s email:


These graphs show the arrival, departure and total delta-V requirements for Hohmann-type Earth-Mars transfers. Delta-V is displayed by colour, the horizontal axis is departure date (range Jan 2020 to Feb 2025) and the vertical axis is flight time (range 100 days to 500 days).

I know these aren’t what you were looking for, but they are relatively easy to produce and are moderately interesting. They are based on a simplified calculation method using instantaneous changes in velocity for Earth escape and Mars capture and do not consider things like ion engines which can be used to lower the departure and capture delta-Vs.

At least they give you a useful ballpark approximation of when the available launch windows are.

You’ll notice that there are two lobes to each patch. The lower lobe is the one typically used for conventional chemical rockets because they give a much lower flight time (7-9 months) without too much delta-V penalty. The associated transfer orbit does however have a relatively high eccentricity. They top lobes have longer transfer times but lower eccentricity and I believe they will give us greater opportunity to maximise the use of the ion engines but I need to do more research in this area.

Earth to Mars Delta V:

Arrival delta-V (the cross-hairs are on the minimum for 2022 – 29th July 2022 with a flight time of 321 days)

Arrival delta-V (the cross-hairs are on the minimum for 2022 – 29th July 2022 with a flight time of 321 days)

Departure delta-V (the cross-hairs are on the minimum for 2022 – 17th September 2022 with a flight time of 387 days)

Departure delta-V (the cross-hairs are on the minimum for 2022 – 17th September 2022 with a flight time of 387 days)

Total delta-V (the cross-hairs are on the minimum for 2022 – 28th August 2022 with a flight time of 347 days)

Total delta-V (the cross-hairs are on the minimum for 2022 – 28th August 2022 with a flight time of 347 days)

Tim will be giving me a better breakdown of the navigation profiles, but 2022 is such a long way and we may slip or gain over the years, so it will be little more than an exercise to ensure we understand the time taken with an ion engine and the problems that may arise. I look forward to more detail soon and I will share it with you.

The ThunderStruck Evolution

ThunderStruck Phase 1

ThunderStruck Phase 1

ThunderStruck Evolution is Essential.

by Robert Brand

Over the couple of months since officially announcing Project ThunderStruck, I have received lots of comments about the craft and not having detailed drawing. I made it very clear that in the early days, my son Jason had to earn his keep and create the art work for the craft. He tried his best, but the only tools that he had were not CAD 3D tools, but he did have Kerbal Space Program (KSP)and he used that to crate the craft details that he was looking for. So let’s have a look at his first drawing.

Jason's CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

Jason’s CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

Well, everything is wrong about this craft, but he was stuck with fixed sizes and it got our website up and running. Fuselage too thin, wings are simply wrong and much more. We did add a supersonic spike, but that was actual dueling as a radio antenna and may end up on the final craft too.

We ended up agreeing that we needed wheels and that there was no way to fit them to this craft. This started the move to the current craft. Jason again resorted to using KSP. The results were closer to the current craft.

Now people really gave us a hard time over KSP and they did not really understand that we had given the responsibility for much of the work to Jason and he simply resorted to the tools at hand and KSP really did do more than I expected. It was a reasonable attempt at making a model close to the final product.

Below is the second evolution of the transonic ThunderStruck.

ThunderStruck mk2 closeup

ThunderStruck Design and 1-2 size measurementsSince then we brought in the big guns and I created the plans for the craft. Mind you the published file had an error. The length of the nosecone was 200mm too short!  That is now fixed in the later plans.

Well from the plans, Ben Hockley created a view using SolidWorks software. From the plan came a rendered image that been added to a cloud image as seen at the top of page.  Here are Ben’s plans and view:

Thunderstruck plans

Thunderstruck plans

Below the composite image showing the craft in the transition from the dive to horizontal flight:

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight. Credit Ben Hockley (ThunderStruck) and NASA (clouds and Moon)

I know that this is a long time coming, but if we hit you with too much to soon, you would probably think we were cheating. We may change the odd thing or two before the flight, but this is essentially the craft that will go into the record books.

CAD composite ThunderStruck Images

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight. Credit Ben Hockley (ThunderStruck) and NASA (clouds and Moon)

ThunderStruck Images and Animation.

It has been a long time coming as there are only so many hours in the day. The images and our ability to do 3D renditions and even 3D printing is courtesy of Ben Hockley from Brisbane, Australia.

Ben has created this fantastic image of the Phase one Thunderstruck craft. It is pictured just after going subsonic and making the transition to horizontal flight. At this point it will be slowing to about 500kph and is about to slowly deploy the canards. These are little wings at the front of the craft. Unlike the wings, the canards will have lift and will be set to work with a nose down angle of about 10 degrees. Tests will determine whether we will need to change the angle for landing or whether the canards will remain in line with the fuselage at all times during the flight. I suspect the later will be the correct arrangement and much easier to build, but testing is always required.

Thunderstruck1Why not a slender body? Simply we will achieve supersonic speeds due to lack of air. Well very “thin” air. A tiny fraction of 1% at sea level. Drag is not the issue here until we are in level subsonic flight. There we will be taking a step glide path anyway as there is no lift in the wings. I will be happy with a 10 to 1 glide slope. We lose a metre for every 10m flown. The drag on the body will not be the greatest issue and I would like the body big enough to add the Patch antennas. They stick on the outside of the craft and I will want that to be on top of the body and under the body so that there is signal no mater what the orientation of the craft. The added benefit is that we have plenty of room to work on the electronics, servos and other gadgets that need to move within the body of the craft. The diameter of the craft at full scale will be about 600mm in diameter. This may change with flight testing, but we are now in the final stages of the paper design and the engineering of the mechanical components will all fit comfortably in this size craft.


The drawings were done with Solidworks and you can, if you are a student, pick up a copy for US$150 and since this is Jason’s project and he is a year 8 student, he qualifies. The images at right are the craft’s plans and the top right shows a view of the craft, including the lines differentiating the sections used to create the fuselage. ie the nose cone joins the first half of the fuselage. These lines are removed for rendering a coloured and textured model as seen in the top image.

Although we do not yet have animation of the flight, it can now be produced with the 3D files that come from the rendering process. These are STL files and moving the background and the view of the craft (angle of attack), vibration, etc, can give the required feel of flight. The files will be sent to an animator to see if this can easily be achieved. If yes, we hope to have the animation ready to show you and also use it in the ever so essential crowd funding video. The three images above are shown below. All are courtesy of Ben Hockley and the picture with clouds in the background is courtesy of NASA and taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Ben thanks again for these fantastic ThunderStruck images.

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight

Thunderstruck Phase One Craft in Flight. Credit Ben Hockley (ThunderStruck) and NASA ISS (clouds and Moon)

A plain rendered view of ThunderStruck Phase One with shadow

A plain rendered view of ThunderStruck Phase One with shadow. Credit Ben Hockley

Thunderstruck plans

Thunderstruck plans. Credit Ben Hockley

We Need Your Funding Help

Dollar symbolFunding Needed to Complete the Project

Firstly, we thank all of those that have already helped with the ThunderStruck project. Soon we will be hitting the TV stations and airwaves for crowd funding, but that will take about 2 months and we are hoping to find some people that might help with the crowd funding now rather than later. We want to keep flying our tests before the big day, now scheduled for July 2015, but with out help we just cannot get there.

We need to buy gas, balloons, pay for petrol, accommodation and much more. Our balloon launches are mandated by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority to be at a location that is 7 hours drive from our home town of Sydney.

Simply, it costs us the best part of $1,000 every time we fly an experiment and we need to fly one now. It is designed to test the acceleration from of a slender but soft bodied payload from just over 35km altitude. The higher the better of course.

If you can help you will go on our donations page (soon to be created) and will be eligible for our standard rewards:

Perks for your contribution

$20Supporter’s name on website
$30Name on Flight + all above
$50Autographed Photo + all the above (it will be a picture of ThunderStruck)
$75Mission Patch + all the above
$100Cap with Mission patch + all the above
$200Tee Shirt + all the above
$750 –Your company’s 6″x6″ Logo, Name on the Fuselage + all the above
$1,500Your company’s 12″x6″ Logo, Name on the Fuselage + all the above excluding the $750 award
Donations of any sort will help us greatly, but you must email me at and tell me your donation and either:
  • send it to me via PayPal using as the email account and add your name to the transaction.
  • ask me to send a PayPal request for money that will allow a credit card payment.
  • or if you live in Australia, please send directly to my ANZ ThunderStruck account:

Bank:   ANZ
BSB:     012-260
Acc:      293323881
Name:  Mr Robert F Brand

The official crowd funding campaign will begin in a few weeks. Thanks in advance all those that wish to help make this a reality and success. Your names will be recorded in the ThunderStruck pages for many years to come as a founding contributor of an important space craft.

I am also thinking of creating a layout of the craft and have people sponsor various components. That would be great – like the zoo sponsors animals. Let me know your thoughts.

It is What We Do – Space Everyday

Facebook LogoEveryday Space becomes Space Everyday

by Robert Brand

Simply put, I began publishing stories about space and how everyday people could do so much in space (literally owning spacecraft and more). I had a strong communications history with space missions which has now migrated to become my day to day work. To give you a snapshot of that progress over several years, below is a couple of years of my Facebook Cover photos. You can see how much space work that Jason and I have been playing with. It is a real eye opener when you realise just how much I am not allowed to post. ie, I have been working on a provisional patent for stabilising a stratospheric craft in the atmosphere. It is revolutionary as it stabilises pitch, roll, yaw and holds the position against the upper atmosphere winds no matter where they come from. I can’t talk about it as anything I say will give away the key to the design. Such stratospheric airships will replace satellites as they are close to earth and the signal strength is higher, they are easily repaired and equipment is easily upgraded. The world is on the edge of technology that will bring us those airships in the next ten years.

So given that there i a lot missing, please enjoy the following page from our WOTZUP website

 Our Space Life – Space Everyday

My son, Jason (12 years old at time of posting) and I live an exciting life with a lot of space and aerospace activities. I am a leading space entrepreneur with an involvement in hundreds of real space missions, mostly with NASA.

It is a real buzz having Jason so involved in space and High Altitude Balloon activities and of course, now ThunderStruck. We launch, track and recover payloads and we are truly the team with the best recovery rate in the world. After 21 flights we have recovered all 21 payloads! Two flights were in Croatia. These photos are from my Facebook cover page and they are updated regularly every 2-3 days. They detail the great stuff that can be done by anyone with the drive and determination to succeed. I get to travel the world as I am very involved in space and these travels and pictures with my friends are all shown below. Simply this is a set of “Robert and Jason Brand space photos”

As these are cover images, there will always be the odd picture that is about something dramatic that is not space – like the recent encounter with a snake in our front yard. I love snakes, but there are kids and dogs nearby and this one was mildly venomous! The pictures are mostly aerospace. As we live in Australia, most are taken right here in this vast and magnificent country.

You can find me on Facebook here: If you wish to send me a friend request, please note that I have close to the 5,000 friend limit and cannot easily add more people.

Enjoy the images and stories. Everyday Space becomes Space Everyday:

From Cover Photos, posted by Robert Brand on 15/2/2015

Navigation – Destination Signs in Space

Australian National Fabrication Facility’s Laser Labs

Destination Signs Will Pave the Way in Space.

by Robert brand

In the last day a comment by a well meaning reader condemned Project ThunderStruck for lack of information. In any project’s early days, that will always be the case, no matter how much funding you have and how real any project may turn out to be. The skeptics will always put down a project publicly based on their measurement system, lack of knowledge of the team’s capabilities or previous experience and a large number of other factors.

I cannot table what I don’t have as so much is fluid at the moment. We are tabling the Phase One tests and other facts as they are both allowed commercially or announced by the group with the appropriate permission of the stakeholders. Commercial-in-confidence will dictate these matters as in any company. None the less there are components of the craft that are solely my property at the moment. I can give you a snap shot of a typical day in my life at the moment that may show the strength of this project.

The title of this post is about Space Destination Signs and conversely avoidance signs or safe passage signs. So who is building these new modern signposts for the difficult environment of space and a navigation system to use them. We Simply I am and it is part of the Thunderstruck Navigation System

Laser Tag

I am not speaking about kids with toy guns, but a serious business in space that will create new auto-navigations systems and will keep track of objects that are on the move of change their location such as survey craft.

The concept is simple, but the solution is hard. If it was easy, we could all create it. My next words make me shudder as a recent detractor said that the term “Quantum” was not on the site and that was a plus. He said that was the realm of scientists, so I have some breathing space here because some of the solutions will probably have the word “quantum” somewhere in there, but scientists’ words, not mine.

There are two essential components of this project:

  • A spacecraft mounted laser transmitter and a laser receiver with a steerable mount.
  • A passive but easily identifiable laser reflector (Retro-reflector + ID).

You can watch the video below that both debunks any thoughts that we have not landed technology on the moon and also shows a small basic bit of essential info on retro-reflectors. Hey, it is Mythbusters – a great show anyway.

There must be at least hundreds of variations of these reflectors for our use, but each ID can be reused, just not in that locations. Lighthouses do that too. Many have the same rate of light bursts, but they are so distant from each other, there is no confusion. The laser reflectors can be made larger to give it “gain” and a longer range, but at this stage I would be happy with a 100,000Km range. Again I cannot give details as we have not selected the passive ID system and thus the weight, distance of operation and wavelength is not yet available. Nor is the polarisation and other factors, but whatever system we use, playing with the polarisation will give us three times the number. Left hand, right hand and no polarisation. We cannot use horizontal or vertical polarisation as we don’t now the orientation of the reflector, but we could use it as a forth multiplication factor if needed.

I am hoping that we will not have to delve into polarised reflectors simply because polarisation drops the reflected  light levels a lot, but they could be could for close up navigation systems.

There are a few candidate technology solutions for the system and I hope to finalise the selection of the core system in the next few weeks, ensuring a low cost, low mass system that is small enough for a good signal return.

Yesterday I visited the photonics labs at Macquarie University in Sydney. It is part of the Australian National Fabrication Facility – a group of high tech facilities in universities around Australia. Everything from clean rooms to heat shield fabrication. It could be R&D or it could be simply renting and using the equipment. It was the first step in assessing the capability of the group to produce the solution. I was very impressed by their range of equipment, services and people.

A nice side story here. The Sydney Olympic torches were incredibly successful due to their help. One of the problems with most torches is that there is a huge variation in the flame height and thus the burn time. You really don’t want a flame too small that gets blown out or a flame too big that the gas runs out before being transferred to the next torch. The lab fabricated a component by burning a bore hole though glass (or similar substance) that had a very precise bore hole that regulated the gas to burn at a very precise rate. It was a huge success and although you will not hear it officially in the real world another country contracted the lab to do the same for their Olympic torches.

I will revisit the labs in a few weeks and discuss the findings of the research and how we can engage the laboratory to build and test the systems for sale to the space sector. The ThunderStruck craft will have the active scanning unit as part of its plug and play design. Add it or leave it off, the decision is up to you.

Why Bother to Tag.

Spiral Search Pattern

Spiral Search Pattern

In the real world of space, there are no sign posts, but let’s say an asteroid has been tagged or even tagged a couple of times. Our craft will start looking for the reflector in the area of space that it is expected to be found. A simple spiral search starting at the expected location (centre of search) should locate the reflector if it is in view.  The search may have to be repeated many times if the target is rotating. Its rotational speed with determine the number of searches required and their interval.

In the event that the target is not found, a series of overlapping search patterns will need to be conducted around the outside of the original pattern and may require the craft to maneuver slightly. One found the information reflected distance to the destination and the angle of the search unit and the attitude of the craft will give the direction of the target reflector.  This is helpful to the extreme and you can then plan you trajectory to get there and the braking force required to stop at the destination without wasting fuel. Fuel is one consideration and so is time. This system leaves nothing to chance.

If you use an ion engine to brake, then you need exceptional information to get the flight just right and preserve fuel for the return flight (if there is one). This system is ideal for ion engine slowing and stopping. In fact the ideal slowing may be planned to just miss the target so that any failure or overshoot will not be an issue. Thrusters can correct the slight difference once stopped.

Other Reasons to Tag

There are many, but here are a few:

  • The target object is spinning
  • The target object has moved
  • The target is a spacecraft that is in a new location
  • The target is moving (a relative measurement of course).
  • The object is big and the target is a precise area of interest.
  • The target is to be avoided (a lighthouse style beacon)
  • The target is to be monitored (spin rate, speed, direction).
  • The target spacecraft has lost power and rendezvous is only possible with a radar reflector.
  • Staking a claim to a rock or body. International Space Law needs to be involved here.

There are many more, but the passive signpost is a feature that we can expect to see in space soon if we get the price and size right.

I expect to be a regular at the labs as we will be working on laser comms, but more on that in the near future. There is absolutely no reason that the navigation unit cannot be also a laser communications link. Once the first craft locates the second, the ability to for the second to “lock on” is made a lot easier with a constant laser pointed at it. The laser will be brighter than a reflected laser beam. Once locked, they will be able to talk to each other making the approach much simpler if they are to rendezvous. If you are concerned about the tag reflecting the signal, a voltage controlled shutter can be activated, diminishing the reflection or even steering the reflection away. There are options. More on our new technology later.

Robert Brand and Warren McKenzie at the Australian National Fabrication Facility's Laser Labs

Robert Brand and Warren McKenzie at the Australian National Fabrication Facility’s Laser Labs

Australian National Fabrication Facility's Laser Labs

Australian National Fabrication Facility’s Laser Labs

Press Release 3 – Mars Mission

mars-atmospherePress Release – Mars Mission

Monday 9th Feb 2015

Release Date: IMMEDIATE

2022 Australian Mission to Mars

Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Project ThunderStruck is the brainchild of Australian aerospace entrepreneur Robert Brand. The spacecraft is in its design and testing phase and will be capable of taking many forms with its modular construction. The unmanned ThunderStruck craft is expected to go into commercial production in 2021 and embark on a shakedown flight to Mars in 2022. a new craft is assembled for each mission. The choice of rocket will be made closer to the date.

The Mars shakedown cruise will be a public demonstration of the vehicle’s systems and its ion engine for commercial spaceflight. The group expects ThunderStruck to fly away from earth, taking pictures of the moon and earth together and then on to Mars. The flight to Mars will take much longer than the flight of the Curiosity rover and other such craft as the ion engine only puts out continuous low level thrust. It will need to loop around Mars many times while it brakes before settling into a low orbit where it can deploy or conduct the experiments on board. This will take a couple of years to complete, but it will be the first private mission to Mars. The exact time it will take will be dependent on the final mass of the vehicle, the power of the launch vehicle, the power of the ion engine and the position of Mars relative to Earth.

The vehicle will use new technology, much of which will be developed in Australia. The cost of the new technology will be significantly lower than current government funded systems and a very inexpensive alternative to building your own components for your spacecraft as many of the features needed will already exist.

The Space Courier Service

Brand is not looking to sell the craft for others to use, but to provide a service to deliver payloads or return them to earth. In what has become know as a Triple Play, He wants his company to provide the vehicle, communications and the mission control for the flight, leaving the customer to simply look after their experiment or cargo once delivered. Where the concept of taking astronauts to the International Space Station has become known as the “Space Taxi” service Brand has called ThunderStruck the workhorse of the “Space Courier” service.

One possible use of the craft is for sample returns for the asteroid miners. ThunderStruck would rendezvous with the survey vehicle near an asteroid and provide an empty payload container and bring back 50Kg of samples in a full container. Depending on the chosen configuration, Thunderstruck will return the sample to Earth via a capsule and parachute or via a winged re-entry and landing on Earth. The ideal place to land will be in southern central Australia if it is a capsule and potentially a runway closer to civilisation if a winged vehicle. We are looking to the likes of Spaceport Australia to provide those facilities.

Other services could include taking small satellites to an area of space for release and then relaying the data back to earth. Taking an experiment to a site and being permanently part of the experiments  control system until end of life. Even the International Space Station (ISS) could have a version strapped to the outside and upon release it could land within a day with a crucial sample. With the winged version believed to be only 3m to 5m long, the crafts systems can be dormant for years and be made ready for flight at the flick of a switch. With a non-volatile/inert chemical thrust system, there is no danger to the space station being left on the outside.

One potential experiment for the Mars shakedown cruise is the release of many small cubesats, each with their own experiments. The ThunderStruck craft would remain close by and act as a communications relay to earth for the experiments. They are small with little room for high powered communications or the energy it requires. Remaining close by allows the high power transmitters aboard ThunderStruck to relay the data back to earth.

Depending on the remaining fuel for the ion engines following the Mars encounter, it may be possible to fly elsewhere in the solar system and do some rudimentary science or obit the sun taking observations. ThunderStruck will have a camera on board and may be able to conduct further observations and science for many years to come. Similarly to the long time it took to settle into a low Mars orbit, it will take a long time to climb out of a low Mars orbit. The thrust from an ion engine would do well to disturb a piece of paper on you desk. Its continued use in space slowly adds momentum as space is essential free of friction.

ThunderStruck is set to revolutionise the Australian space sector and provide an extensive number of space related job. There is currently little work here in Australia for space graduates from University. They tend to leave and go over. We expect to change that. The project should work as a catalyst for other stalled projects. After all, without an Australian launch vehicle, we will be headed overseas for all launches. A local capability will be an obvious benefit and an obvious business to establish.

A core team of people is being assembled and business arrangements are being considered, but the Project has reached a critical mass that will see it through to commercialisation.

Read more at:

PRESS CONTACT ONLY:   Robert Brand – contact@projectthunderstruck

Australia: 0448881101     Int’l:+61 448881101 – essential to leave a message if not answered.

Photos of Robert Brand on the Project ThunderStruck webpage are available for publication. Please do not use images of the craft as this is a supersonic phase 1 test vehicle and will NOT look like any of the final craft’s design UNLESS you label the images as such. Phase One testing is Scheduled for around July 2015 near Longreach in Queensland

Meet the Team: Tim Blaxland

Tim BlaxlandTim Blaxland – Our Navigation Guru

Tim Blaxland from Sydney Australia is an Electrical Engineer with extensive engineering management experience and has been an amateur astronomer and spaceflight enthusiast since 2003.

As a navigation adviser to the Project, Tim’s work will kick in with the second phase testing on a sounding rocket and will be required in earnest for the Phase 3 orbit and re-entry in 5 to 6 years time. Tim  will be then responsible for the design and modeling of spacecraft trajectories, assessing the trajectories for their impact on communication and navigation operational procedures, providing advice on navigation technologies and their integration with the vehicles, coordinating vehicle constraints with other team members, and assessing the impact of these constraints on the mission objectives.

Tim has worked extensively on the simulation of spaceflight, including:

  • A trans-lunar moment exchange tether, including trajectory determination.
  • Modeling of the precession of the orbits and axes of solar system bodies.
  • A generic attitude control auto-pilot

He has been recently working with team Stellar as their Chief Technical Officer and has contributed extensively to mission designs and the technical aspects of a space business.

Tim has also been involved with the our High Altitude Balloon flight to 33km altitude both here in Australia and in Croatia. Tim’s attention to detail contributed greatly to the success of the 2 flights in Croatia and these were the first 2 legal flights in the country. We are not aware of any other flights that were approved. In the video below you will see myself (Robert Brand), my son Jason (12) and Tim Blaxland. The others are all local Team Stellar members past and present. The balloons carried local student payloads to the stratosphere. Tim can be seen working with the payload on the ground and throughout the video.