A Flight to Mars – 2022

Mars - 2022Mars – 2022 CubeSat Mission

Here is the ThunderStruck proposal for a payload to Mars – 2022 for our Ion Engine Shakedown flight. This presentation was one on many 15 minute presentations at NSW University. Where all others focused on cubesat missions close to earth, this would be the first to Mars and presents a unique opportunity for Australian Space Research.

Given that most of the audience would not have a clue about ThunderStruck, I had to first explain the project and then the opportunity. Not much could be said about the Opportunity as we will be looking for cubesat builders to tell us what they can achieve closer to the date.

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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

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:  http://www.facebook.com/Echoes.Of.Apollo 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

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

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.

New Doors are Opening Every Day

Spaceport AustraliaKicking Open Doors to New Adventure

If you don’t spend the time getting the word out about a project dear to your heart like ThunderStruck, you will stall and fail. It takes the right contacts and the right people to make a project successful. We are certainly at that point of critical mass right now.

ThunderStruck will be the sonic boom heard all over the world. It would be crass to say “The Thunder from Down Under” so I will resist the opportunity.

Door 1: I recently posted in a number of new places including a lot of suitable Linkedin Groups and they certainly produced results and for all parties, not just ThunderStruck.

I received many comments on the posts and some have been exceptional.

Add to that the interviews on radio, print and on-line media and the results have been spectacular. Here is an ABC news article that certainly got new attention all over Australia:

Click here to read the article

Door 2: Another has been an article in the UK based The Register.  This has been an amazingly popular 2 page story that gained global recognition for the project.

The Register

Spaceport AustraliaSpacePort AUstralia (SPAU)

Door 3: This is one such organisation run by a man that has caught my attention. He is not well known in the space sector and is more of a business man, but he is dedicated to building a spaceport here in Australia and I believe that he will succeed. He is looking in Queensland and believes that he may have found the airfield that may become our first spaceport. John Moody is his name and the company is Spaceport Australia. John has connections in the music business and I am hopeful of some great connections for ThunderStruck. You can find out more about Spaceport Australia and we will be posting more stories about John and SPAU regularly.

Click here to Visit SPAU

More to Come

There are more big opportunities on the way and we have to get signatures on legal documents before I can speak about them. None the less if you are interested in taking a small shareholding in the business side of things, I can discuss the upcoming opportunities.


What a Week for ThunderStruck

A Lot can Happen in a Week.

It has been a massive week for ThunderStruck. We have had important meetings, been in the press, had interviews, got published with a big article in the UK Register, set up two possible JVs or at least mutual support opportunities, designed the final (as can be) configuration of the Phase 1 airframe, responded to numerous inquiries, published some pages, sent letters, discussed issues with the project and the end is not in sight. it seems that we are getting so much interest, that we will need more feet on the ground just to respond to interested people. And we do meet interesting people

Michel FournierMeet Michel Fournier

He is one of those great guys that wants to axctually JUMP from 40Km up. I’m not doing that and neither is Jason – well, not at the moment, anyway. We are supporting him and his mission for the simple fact that, in his words: “Why not in 2015 , the youngest and the oldest stratonaute ?”

8a2ffd5c-0390-11e3-8965-22000aa5129e-largeDid you notice a French spelling? Michel comes from the Marseille area in France, an area of the world I do love very much. His project is called “LE GRAND SAUT” which means of course, “THE BIG JUMP”.

Michel says: “I am currently being prepared of a jump to 40,000 meters, the objective to find solutions with the major challenges of space voyages. More than 9000 jumps to my credit with a jump from 11,898 meters”.

Well Jason is only doing this by remote control, but Michel has the drive to be up there, doing it for real. You have to love it. Below are some photos of pressure testing and test jumps. Stay across what Michel is up to and we will report it occasionally too.




You can check out Michel’s Linkedin page here:


Michel also says:

“Please check out my project : www.the-big-jump.com to know my project better and I thank you for your interest in my project.

I have a budget in Research also, in testing and production equipment of 11 million € 800 , I have tried unsuccessfully because of the balloons and lack of funding. Today I have a new balloon manufactured by the US, which should allow me to easily cross 45,000 m. For this, I must still find 1 million € to achieve it. I am looking to research for partners. All of my communications and my marketing are free. I have permission from the Canadian authorities. ”

As for progress on the other ThunderStruck activities, stay tuned for those announcements in further posts at Project ThunderStruck.

 Anyway, for the moment, Jason will have to be content with being a virtual “stratonaute“. Good Luck Michel.



ThunderStruck Momentum Builds

ThunderStruck support from MASNSWThunderStruck Gets Backing

We were supposed to be flying a High Altitude Balloon Payload to 33.3Km this weekend, but that quickly changed when we saw the Griffith area forecast. Rain, top temperature of 22C and probably winds. So we are staying home and postpone the trip a week or two, depending on the weather.

None the less that disappointment hardly tarnishes what has been a great week with progress each day. The big announcement is that we have now received backing from the Minature Aero Sports NSW. The type of support is being negotiated, but they support the innovation and Jason’s attempt on the sound barrier. The piece below is from their website:



Miniature Aero Sports New South Wales Inc. is a State Association of Model Aviation Clubs that actively promotes the sport of Radio Controlled Model Aviation within New South Wales, Australia. It also represents the interests of its many club members on a National level through its affiliation with the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia Inc MAAA . Over 95 Model Aviation Clubs are currently registered with MASNSW. These 95 plus Clubs contain comprise in excess of 2300 members, making MASNSW one of the largest of the Australian State Associations.

On Thursday night, Bob Carpenter, his wife and Tim Nolan met with Jason and I and we went over the project, the expectations and the realities. Bob and Tim were supportive and took the project to the committee and they have had a positive response to out request for support. I look forward to telling you the outcome in the next month – the fine details of the support.

logoThe Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering

The information below is from their website:


Throughout the past three decades of operating, The Warren Centre has delivered many innovative projects through industry collaboration and support, which have advanced the discipline of engineering and related fields. These initiatives have led to new approaches in Australian infrastructure, technology and engineering, providing greater links between government and industry with viable opportunities for wealth creation. The Warren Centre continues to deliver projects that drive innovation for industry. Please contact us if you would like to know more about our current projects, other Warren Centre initiatives or to become part of the Warren Centre network.

The Warren Centre is located in Sydney university, close to the Aerospace Department, where I give the odd guest lecture. This week they asked whether Jason and I would be guests at their dinner in early February. Given the guest lecturer, we would be stupid to say no!


I suspect that Jason will get a real kick out of meeting with Professor Brian Schmidt. Dare I say that it will “expand” his views of the universe. Go look up what Brian contributed to the world of science if you missed the reference.

We are so looking forward to being guests of the Warren Centre for Advanced Engineering!


YAA_LOGOYoung Achiever Awards

Jason has been nominated for the NSW Young Achiever Awards – Science Leadership.  March 21st will be the big dinner and if he does well, then may be he will be in the final selection.

There are a few other nominations in the offering, but credibility is key to our success and I see these nominations as a way to have others vet this project and tell the world that it is for real. Telling the world that a 12 year old will break the sound barrier do seem a little “out there”. but my close friends know that we live on the edge of what is possible. Jason and I have the same drive and the same adventurous spirit.



There is way more happening, but I can only tell you what we are allowed to make public at this stage. I look forward to our next update.