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.

Moon Mars and Beyond.

MoonMars300First the Moon and Then on to Mars.

It is important to have a goal and building a spacecraft of enormous capability is one thing. Proving it is another. After discussions with many people, it is clear that a flight to Mars is a clear winner, and so is the Moon. It seems that we have to decide – or do we?

I have therefore proposed a Moon flyby and on to Mars. We may not get too close to the moon as the change in direction may be too much to accurately set our trajectory to Mars and our ion engine will struggle to get us back on track. Keeping a distance from the moon will ensure that the trajectory change will be more predictable, but we will ensure that we get magnificent images of the moon and earth and maybe some great science too depending on our payload.

It will then be on to Mars for the cruise of a lifetime. The small blue dot and its moon diminishing with distance as the small red dot grows bigger.  This may not be our first flight of the commercial ThunderStruck craft, but it will cement our position in space as a major player in the space sector and clearly place Australia on the map. Well it is a continent in its own right, but if we distorted the size of each country to show its progress in the sector, we will see that we are a tiny dot compared to so many other countries.

So what Makes ThunderStruck Possible?

Two things: New materials that give access to space at a wide commercial level and secondly, the drive of those in the group. I was going to say skill, but I considered my own case and I realised if there was something that I lacked, I got the right people in to address it. The skill is important, but at a secondary level. I am sure Elon Musk did not know too much about building the incredible spacecraft that the world has come to love, but he did have the drive and in his case the funding. Crowd funding and sponsorship will be the initial funding models to get this on the go and financiers will likely fund the final phases of this venture. The dollars are of secondary importance but absolutely essential. Without them ThunderStruck will not fly. A solid and clear business case and a low change of failure will drive the dollars.

Moon Mars – Why Choose when you can Have Both?

This will create tight launch windows for a Moon Mars mission and create fewer windows too. In fact we will have to work hard to ensure the maximum number of launch opportunities are available. We will not want to wait another 6 months to get the combination right. If this happens, the moon will have to be sacrificed, but until then, we are adamant that it will stay.

Imagine bringing back images like the ones below taken from NASA’s deep impact mission

Lunar transit of Earth: photo by Deep Impact/EPOXI, 2008

Lunar transit of Earth: photo by Deep Impact-EPOXI, 2008

Learn more out this image at the link below:

So what will happen when we get to Mars?

There are several opportunities here and a space based camera is an old but true friend. Given the dollars spent so far by other countries, there is little that we could contribute to getting better pictures, so we will cross that off the list at this stage. Remember that things can change and this is not set in stone. I expect that the best way to demonstrate the changing face of space travel will be with new experiments and new technology. I suspect either a 200Kg lander, leaving the ThunderStruck craft in orbit as a communications relay or a more easily deployed set of cubesats that can each do science and again use the shepherding ThunderStruck craft as a communications relay, ensuring enough power to get the signal back to earth. Cubesats are tiny and they need to keep their power low. The relay is essential if they are to have power and space for their experiments.

Wings, Heatshield?

No wings an no heat shield are needed for this flight. After Mars, who knows. Out there somewhere would be my best guess. This flight will not be returning to earth unless there are strong reasons to build it with that capability before launch. it will need an ion engine and settling into a low Mars orbit will take time with an ion engine. So will any attempt to leave a Mars orbit. It will be a slow climb out of the Mars gravity well. This was not important leaving earth as we had the benefit of a chemical engine in the climb out of earth orbit. We left hot and fast. Once the chemical engine was exhausted, it was dropped off and the ion engine kicked in. Ion engines have tiny thrust but continuous and they are very efficient. They can however be difficult to get in and out of any low orbit around a planet. So the spacecraft will be a plain body with cooling systems and solar systems. It will have the usual electronics, thrusters and communications and that is about it other than the payload and payload bay.

Given the stripped down version of the craft, we can also manage bigger payloads. the bigger the payload, the less influence the ion engine will have, but if speed to destination are not your goal, then this is not an issue.  Having said that I expect that we will not have racing stripes!

I look forward to all the comments that this post will bring. and I know it will bring many. Check the Links on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

Below is a picture taken at a Mars simulation exercise here on earth. I was involved in a Methane detection experiment for Mars. It seems to have passed into oblivion, but it is great to have a Mars mission back on the table that is more likely to happen than one that hopes to compete to get a place on someone else’s craft.

Mars Methane Experiment - tested in a similation site in Northern Africa

Meet the Team: Nick Howes

Nick Howes – Our UK Astronomer and space GuruNick Howes and Charlie Duke.

by Robert Brand
That is Nick Howes (r) in the picture at right with Charlie Duke of Apollo 16 fame (l). I first met Nick At Spacefest several years ago and we “clicked” straight away. We have been great friends since and have bumped into each other at space conferences in Tucson Ar; Pasadena Ca and London. Space is very big, but the space sector here on earth is pretty small. Hey Nick played a wicked joke while I was talking to Buzz Aldrin, with the joke being on Buzz. I realised that if nothing else we would have fun together and space was the cement. Well there is more to the relationship than jokes. We are now into the serious stuff.
Nick is Project ThunderStruck’s UK based guy with a super big knowledge of the rocks in our solar system. He is our key guy on knowing were to go and how to get there – not the navigation, but definitely the location.  When we strap an ion engine on to the rear end of ThunderStruck, Nick is the guy that is there to guide our chief Navigator. He is soon to be announced so stay tuned. Back to Nick – this is Nick’s bio:

Nick Howes:

 Nick Howes is an amateur astronomer and formerly deputy director of the Kielder Observatory, as well as a freelance science writer whose work has included the European Space Agencies Science Portal and NASA Blueshift.

A Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, he has written for Astronomy U.S, Sky and Telescope, Popular Astronomy and many other publications and websites, including major work for the world’s largest telescope project, the Square Kilometre Array. A speaker at international conferences, he has shared the stage with Apollo astronauts, NASA MSL teams and some of the world’s leading experts in comet research as an internationally known speaker.

His images of comets and asteroids have graced the NASA home pages on multiple occasions. and have won awards and been featured by the like of National Geographic,The Times, Universe Today,, The Financial Times and Discovery Channel Science as well as multiple books and peer reviewed journals.

For 5 years, Nick was the Pro-Am Programme Manager for the twin 2-metre Faulkes Telescopes, one based in Siding Spring, Australia, where he has and is coordinating projects with the European Space Agency on their near Earth object program, ESO on massive star cluster observations and NASA’s comet observing campaigns as well as projects with the U.S based Space Science and Planetary Science Institutes monitoring a range of comets and their activity.

With the Planetary Science Institute and Space Science Institute teams Nick works on observations he makes with the 2-metre Liverpool Telescope in La Palma on cometary science relating to their morphology, and also controutes data to the Italian CARA comet research group on dust measurements for cometary bodies.

Nick has over 400 NASA ADS citations for observational work on comets and asteroids, and is in the Guinness Book of records for leading a team of UK Astronomers in creating the World’s largest image composite of the Moon taken by ground based observations.

A STEM ambassador in the UK, he has appeared on both BBC television and radio and he regularly features as the official astronomer for the BBC in the South West of England. He is also the tour leader for astronomy holidays in Africa and Oman and was technical consultant to the GEO Observatory in Andalucia, Spain.
If that is not enough for you, then I don’t know what is. Again, welcome aboard Nick and I look forward to seeing you a Spacefest next year in Tucson Arizona, USA.
Below is a photo of me with Nick Howes in 2012, when he played a wicked joke on  Buzz Aldrin atSpacefest:

Robert Brand and Nick Howes at Spacefest 2012

Robert Brand and Nick Howes at Spacefest 2012

ANSARI and Spaceports

ANSARI Enterprise LogoTalking to ANSARI

by Robert Brand

Again, I will preface this post by saying that this call was a two way information gathering exercise. Mind you we spoke for 1.5 hours.

ANSARI are all about Spaceports and the contact came from discussions with John Moody. John is working to establish a spaceport here in Australia.

What surprised me was the absolute unity in our thoughts about spaceports. This post is not about the fine points of our conversation, but to simply introduce you to the company and the work happening in spaceports globally. This is from the ANSARI Enterprise website:

ANSARI – About:

Ansari Enterprise is a venture launched in 2014 for the development of spaceports and supporting space communities to sustain the ports’ local space industries.  By providing consulting services in business development and networking as well as technical consultancy, we seek to accelerate the development of spaceports and their respective businesses.  For the supporting space community, we seek to bring together the appropriate businesses, industries and amenities, and promote coordination and cooperation to develop a comprehensive community that is able to sustain and grow.  We have advised our current clientele in the US and abroad in the development of their spaceports, businesses and communities.

​Ethan Chew ​CEO ANSARI Enterprise

​Ethan Chew ​CEO ANSARI Enterprise

Their Mission:

This venture will consult with client spaceport developers to develop real estate for Space Cities around spaceports to serve their communities of tenants and employees.  Such developments will provide residences, work spaces and commercial and service amenities to add value to the community.  We are working with International partners to launch our projects at aerospace communities to create on-site desirable living and working conditions and enhance attractiveness of those communities.

This venture also provides business development and technical consulting services to space businesses as spaceport tenants.  We connect these ventures to resources that increase their chances of success and forward their technology development.

So we spoke for 90 minutes and had to end the call as we both needed to do other work. We could have spoken much longer! I expect that there will be many opportunities with our businesses given the synergy or both viewpoints and also work opportunities.

I will keep you updated if there are new developments.

Meet the Team: David Galea

David GaleaDavid Galea – An Australian Rocket Man and Much More

by Robert Brand

I have know David for many years and it was a pleasure to invite him to be part of Team ThunderStruck’s core group.

David also works with me on Team Stellar – a Google Lunar X-Prize Team. There, he is head of the rocketry Division. David is here for the “Long Haul”. That is building the entire spacecraft. That has always been an option since the first time I spoke with him. He is located in Melbourne Australia – a one day drive from Sydney. None the less, it is very likely that we will meet in the the open parts of NSW when we launch high altitude balloons to test the ThunderStruck components.

As an Adviser to ThunderStruck, he will not be “hands on”, but maybe one day….

Biography for David Galea

David has devoted his entire life to the exploration of science and technology. Since his childhood, David would study the universe through books and telescopes. In college, David built the first school computer in 1982. He then used that same computer to track and communicate telemetry with various satellites to win an award in the Science Talent Search.

His career started when he began working for the largest communications company in Australia (Telstra) to design, build and test what was to be called “The Internet”. He has expertise in Risk Management, Green Data Centers, Information Technology, Project Management, Renewable Energy, Technical Design and Problem Solving.

Wanting to be even more involved in space science, David joined ASRI (Australian Space Research Institute) to take part in the deployment of large rockets from Central Australia in Woomera.

David spent several years with various universities in a consultative role to guide and assist with science projects, I.T. growth and risk mitigation issues.

David has also taken the role as a Science Teacher at a Government Secondary College in Victoria, Australia. David believes that S.T.E.M. (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) needs a push in local schools and has initiated activities such as Rocketry, Moonbots Robotics Challenge and Formula 1 in Schools as part of the curriculum.

David did not teach for the Income, rather, he taught for the Outcome. The outcome of his students is paramount. To inspire them to explore what was once impossible and expand their imaginations for their future. David’s current role is a Business Performance Analyst for a large global security company in Victoria, Australia.

David and Team ThunderStruck

Simply put, anything to do with rockets will rely on David Galea’s expertise. He will also assist with automation and robotics. I look forward to seeing David in our aerospace team for many years to come and as a shareholder and stakeholder in the company.