Press Release 4
Monday 16th Feb 2015.
Release Date: IMMEDIATE
Australian Company Creating Space Signposts
Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Navigating the Solar System is about to get easier. Sydney Based Aerospace Engineer Robert Brand has begun work on paving the space highways with new Navigation Aids.
Brand says “Once you leave earth their are few ways to find what you are looking for. It may be a previously visited asteroid or another spacecraft that you need to rendezvous with on the other side of the solar system. Space is pretty black and your can’t just shine a torch to find your destination. Just like a dark country road, modern roadsigns appear super bright in the distance. They use retro-reflectors that reflect the light straight back at the source – your headlights”. The signs Brand intends to use are sophisticated laser retro-reflectors about the size of a dinner plate. Shine a laser at it and it will reflect the light back to a laser receiver located next to the laser transmitter.
That is the easy part. The technology that Brand is using, passively tags the retro-reflector in such a way that hundreds of reflectors become uniquely identifiable. Since the reflector is passive, it does not use power and can sit there quietly for decades. The Apollo laser retro-reflectors have been on the moon for over 40 years and going strong.
Brand is working about to commence working with the Australian National Fabrication Facility Laser Laboratories to create the passive reflectors and test their performance.
“If a spacecraft can “see” the destination sign 100,000Km away, it can accurately and efficiently slow down and stop right at the destination, saving fuel and time.
Brand’s new spacecraft “ThunderStruck” will be using the technology to help with its courier service in space. The craft will scan the space ahead of the craft with a motorised device able aim the laser in a spiral search pattern. The search can start from 100,000Km away from the destination – about halfway to the moon. The craft will then have the direction to and distance from the target reflector. All other reflectors in the vicinity will be ignored.
Such savings will be crucial for efficient operation and accurate return journeys. After all there are no GPS-like location systems in remote parts of the solar system other than earth.
The uses are endless. You can tag spacecraft, rocks, asteroids and almost anything floating around in space. A failed spacecraft lacking power can be easily found, asteroids tagged for return journeys and tags may even be used for staking a claim if space law permits.
The first test flight of the laser reflectors is expected in 2 to 3 years.
More information and pictures are available at
NOT FOR PUBLICATION:
Press can contact Robert Brand 0448881101 for details (Voice message essential if unanswered)
Press Release 3
Monday 9th Feb 2015
Release Date: IMMEDIATE
Australian Mission to Mars set for 2022
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: http://projectthunderstruck.com
Press Release 2
Thursday 10th Nov 2014
Release Date: IMMEDIATE
Press Release: A New Australian Spacecraft Begins Concept Testing
Sydney, NSW, Australia.
Project ThunderStruck is the brainchild of Australian aerospace entrepreneur Robert Brand. The craft, code-named ThunderStruck is a small winged spacecraft able to re-enter the atmosphere from orbit and land on a runway with a small payload. In fact it is being designed around the premise of being the smallest craft to be stable enough to re-enter and land safely.
The first test is negotiating the transonic phase (the speed of sound) scheduled for April 2015 and it is expected to reach a top speed of over 2,000kph or approaching Mach 2.
The concept testing will be in three phases:
- Transonic Testing (April 2015)
- Sounding rocket to space and land (Dec 2016)
- De-orbiting and landing (5-6 years away)
This is not a rocket and needs to be launched to space aboard a commercial rocket. The craft will be capable of maneuvering in earth orbit and de-orbiting. It will need an ion engine to go further about the solar system and could service the asteroid miners providing taxi services for returning samples back to earth.
Depending on the outcome of tests and limitations of weight vs size, the payload should be somewhere between 10 to 50kgs. The craft is not expected to be reused if it has been in orbit as the cost of refurbishment of a craft twill likely exceed the cost of a new craft. A craft that has been sent to space on a sounding rocket will not need a heat shield and may be reused.
Project ThunderStruck has support from many aerospace companies and sponsorship will be announced shortly.
The transonic phase will conducted by remote control and it will be a global news event as it will break many world and Australian records. As it will break the sound barrier, sonic booms will be heard. It will need to be launched over a remote area of Australia for the first test and it will have live TV coverage of the event. Cameras on the balloon will show the ThunderStruck aircraft drop on its dive to break the sound barrier. Cameras in the front of the aircraft will display the cockpit view and overlay instruments on the video allowing the pilot on the ground to fly the craft. Missile grade GPS will record and relay the speed of the craft to the ground.
Australia built their own orbital craft back in 1967 and launched it on a spare rocket left over from US testing at Woomera. There has not been a substantial spacecraft built in Australia since that time. There have been cubesats and other small amateur radio craft, but this is a huge departure from just placing small payloads in orbit. This will be the first craft that will be capable maneuvering and the first to have long range capability. There are almost no winged re-entry craft capable of de-orbiting. There is one US military spacecraft and another NASA sponsored craft being built. ThunderStruck is looking to service small payloads and will not compete with other craft.
A mission control centre will be created in Sydney and a backup in another site outside of Australia. The craft will be sold as a service and not a device. It will provide significant employment in the aerospace sector and support companies. At this time most aerospace graduates leave Australia due to poor employment prospects.
Contact: Robert Brand – contact@projectthunderstruck Australia: 0448881101 Int’l:+61 448881101 – leave a message if not answered.
Photos of Robert Brand on the Project ThunderStruck webpage are available for publication as is the logo and the CAD images of the aircraft.
Robert Brand: Leading Australian space entrepreneur, Senior Adviser for Team Stellar, ex-OTC staff member, amateur radio operator, Public Speaker on Innovation, Social Media and Space with a focus on Australian Space. Proud father of three amazing kids.