Press Releases

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
http://projectthunderstruck.org/press-releases/

Robert Brand and Warren McKenzie (ANFF) 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

 

NOT FOR PUBLICATION:

Press can contact Robert Brand  0448881101 for details (Voice message essential if unanswered)

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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

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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.

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Jason's CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

Website: http://projectthunderstruck.org

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

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

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

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

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

Balloon Flight with ThunderStruck

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Press Release 1

Thursday 9th Oct 2014

Release Date: IMMEDIATE

12 year old to Break the Sound Barrier

Sydney, NSW, Australia.

Jason Brand, 12 years old has commenced work on building a Remote Control Glider expected to reach Mach 1.5. He has worked with his father, well-known Space Entrepreneur, Robert Brand, on High Altitude Balloon launches since he was 9 years old. Coupled with his love of flying remote-controlled aircraft, Project ThunderStruck was born. Jason will use a massive high altitude balloon to take his glider to over 40km altitude (>25 miles) often called “the edge of space” and release it. The glider will dive through the extremely thin atmosphere and into the record books. It will be controlled from the ground via video and radio links and reach an expected top speed of around Mach 1.5 (1,800kph or 1,120mph).

Jason thought of the idea when his father was talking about a winged re-entry vehicle project that he has commenced. He was discussing the testing required at different stages of the flight and Jason realised that he could actually fly the tests for the transonic phase – the area around the breaking of the sound barrier.

Jason has been immersed in flying for many years. Since he and his father launched their first balloon when he was 9 years old. He was so inspired that he studied and passed his test to become a radio amateur operator (HAM) on his first attempt, again at age 9. 19 balloon launches later, they have maintained an unheard of 100% success in recovering their payloads. Jason flies radio controlled model aircraft, is a cadet in the Australian Air League (Riverwood Squadron) and is determined to solo at age 15. He has also be designing radio systems for long distance control and video. He will “see” from the cockpit camera via a video link and the instrumentation will be overlaid on the video. He will wear goggles and guide the aircraft through the dive, the leveling off at about 80,000 feet (24km / 15 miles) altitude. He will then fly the craft in for a landing.

Special tracking and GPS equipment will be required to verify the speed of the craft for the record books. Most GPS does not work above 60,000 ft and only special GPS systems will work near or above the speed of sound, like those used in missiles. Similarly the aircraft will carry a radar transponder that will advise other aircraft of the ThunderStruck aircraft diving at Mach 1.5. Even military aircraft do not get much over 80,000 ft and controlled airspace is below 60,000 ft. This will probably be the highest balloon and definitely the highest aircraft in the world that day.

This has never been done before and let alone by a 12 year old. It showcases STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) and the fabulous things that happen students are brought up to understand that most limits are there to be broken. Our motto is “New Heights and Breaking Barriers” and those include the Sound Barrier (1,233kph / 766 mph). Soon we will start our funding campaign as it will cost nearly $100,000 to make this a reality and we are looking for global support for such a spectacular event. On the day the event will be captured by cameras on the balloon, the aircraft and from the ground. These will be both live and also recorded. A live broadcast will be available on the Internet for the event scheduled for April 2015.

Website: http://projectthunderstruck.org

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Contact:   Robert Brand – homepc@rbrand.com   Australia:  02 9789 2773    Int’l: +61 2 9789 2773

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

Jason Brand (12 y/o), creator, designer, builder and flier of ThunderStruck

  • HAM radio operator since he was 9 years old
  • First balloon launch and recovery at 9 years old
  • Member of the Australian Air League – Hornets Squadron, Riverwood, Sydney – Cadet
  • Flying Radio Controlled aircraft since 2013
  • Launched, tracked and recovered 19 High Altitude balloons and recovered 100% (all 19)
  • Attends Sydney Secondary College, Balmain Campus – Y7 in 2014
  • Is the Student Representative for Team Stellar – a Google Lunar X-Prize team headed for the moon.

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

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

With his son Jason he has launched 19 high altitude balloon mission and recovered all 19 – two of them were in Croatia. He has designed a mechanism to turn a weather balloon into a zero pressure balloon during flight. Many of the balloon flight have been commercial flights for customers.

2 comments on “Press Releases

  1. Hi There … I saw your story on the News last night. I am a Big Supporter and fan of the Space Program. I wish you all the very best in your Venture.
    I read the Article, on the Link mentioned below, and noticed an Error in one of the Paragraphs. I have Sent Feedback to them pointing out the Error. Here is a copy of my Message.
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………
    There is an Error in one of the Paragraphs in the Story on The Link …
    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-29/father-son-team-hope-to-make-australian-space-history/5990388
    .. The Paragraph reads as follows …..
    ‘He said the smaller the space vehicle the less chance there was of stability.’
    Whereas it should either read as …
    ‘He said the smaller the space vehicle the less chance there was of Instability.’ … or …
    ‘He said the smaller the space vehicle the more chance there was of stability.’ ….. However, as it currently reads, it says that a Smaller Craft is Less Reliable.

    • Neville, Thanks for the comment, but it is correct. The smaller we make a spacecraft, the less the stability as it re-enters the earths atmosphere. It takes a small difference in drag on each wing to cause the vehicle to break-up, flip or similar. The result is instant destruction. Larger vehicles can have small differences, but that also means that they also have a good chance of the differences in each wing nulling out when compared. Overall, there will be a point when stability is near impossible, but we will try and keep a safe distance from those limits. A capsule is more stable on reentry, but a winged vehicle is an option that we require – especially for sounding rocket flights – straight up and down.

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