Project ThunderStruck set to Break Barriers
by Robert Brand
Simply put, we are an Australian group – soon to become a company that is building spacecraft and rockets. Pure and simple we expect to eventually be launching our own payloads to space called Project ThunderStruck.
[The picture (top right) is a graphic doodle of the USSR BOR-4. We were just breaking down the structural elements of this 50 year old design to underpin our craft. Sure, designs and materials have changed, but we are working hard to analyse lots of craft to get the best out of their designers and their flight experience.]
The work at this time is in three main main areas:
- Transonic research
- Spacecraft design and build
- Rocket design and build
This has resulted in three projects:
Transonic research is the “X” series of designs and flights
- X1 The desktop design stage – the Roger Weiss
- X2 Under construction – the Ann Lornie
You can read more here about why we have given the projects their respective names:
Spacecraft Design and Build
Commenced 9th July 2016. The project will be designated as the “S” series and the name will be the “John Sullivan”. More on John Shortly, but John has been one of our strongest supporters over the years. The X1 will be a winged craft that will undergo tests in the upper atmosphere before hitching a ride to space. We are looking at a 2022 launch for the craft to orbit.
Rocket Design and Build
Commenced 12th July 2016. The project will be designated the “R” series. No name has been given to the R1 at this stage. Our first design will result in a static fire test in 2017. Initial designs for the fuel tanks are already underway and although on paper at the time of posting, they will soon have full 3D design information that we will make public on these pages.
The X2 Progress
We are building and testing our systems, navigation, AI and landing systems. We will also test some new transonic small projects in the near future. The X2 is a small swift glider designed to be fast. We expect it to break records. Its top speed while under control will be Mach 1.5 / 1,800kph / 1,120mph. It will land at an airfield under a mixture of AI and manual control. The pilot is expected to be my son who is part of the team. He is Jason Brand (pictured right on Canberra’s Fuzzy Logic Science Show) and he is from Sydney Secondary College / Balmain Campus. Jason is at the time of posting 14 years old and has already broken plenty of records with his hobbies. Breaking the sound barrier will be another cool project. Although we started this a couple of years ago, issues with our civil aviation clearance has been a barrier. In the last couple of weeks, there is now a clear path to be able to fly the X2 and we expect that this will become a reality in early 2017.
New Science, New Data, New Opportunities
Apart from the glitz of breaking the sound barrier, there is a lot of science being done. In fact the event side of this project will be funded by sponsors and the crowd funding will be for additional science that we will outline close to the launch date.
Since Jason has extensive experience and a fantastic track record in High Altitude Balloon flights and flying remote control aircraft, he wanted to look after that first phase of the project. The transonic Phase. Transonic flight is the flight around the area of breaking the sound barrier. All sorts of problems occur near the sound barrier. When we drop the aircraft from 40Km altitude, first we have to get through the sound barrier as the drag increases significantly, but once through the barrier, the drag essentially reduces until your speed increases further. The real testing then commences as our tests will be about slowing, not increasing speed. We will be measuring the behaviour of the craft and airflow over the surfaces.
Project ThunderStruck has Commenced Flying Tests
Just in case you are concerned that this is all talk and no action, we started test flights in Sept 2014. The results are simply amazing and we will use them to refine our project.
The event will take 6 to 9 months to complete and the testing is the most important aspect of this project. It is new territory for us and almost the entire world. There is still fresh science to be done and innovative ways to use new materials and designs. Recently we learned a lot when a non-aerodynamic payload (space chicken from Clintons Toyota) reached speeds of 400kph / 250mph with its parachute deployed. This is because the air is pretty thin up at 33.33Km or 1/3 the way to space. Our payload took several measurements during the fall.
The space chicken was a simple test and we are now happy that we can easily fly at speeds of Mach 1.5 in the very thin air high up in the stratosphere. Left is a picture of the chicken falling back to earth at 400kph. Even the parachute could not slow the payload in the thin air. It slowed down as it reached 28Kms altitude and the air got a bit thicker.
STEM – Project ThunderStruck X2 set to Inspire Kids Worldwide.
Fighter jets break the sound barrier every day, but this radio controlled aircraft has no engine, weighs about 9Kg (20lbs), is 2.5m (8 ft) long. So the pilot must be a really experience Top Gun to fly this plane at 1,800kph (1,120mph)? Well, no. His name is Jason Brand.
This is probably one of the most important demonstrations of STEM education that you can support. This is beyond the ability of almost every adult on the planet, yet a high school student is set to inspire kids around the world with a daring project that is pure STEM – Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. It will make the seemingly impossible the domain of the young if they choose to break down the barriers imposed by themselves or others. Not only that, there is real science going on here.
Your Assistance is Essential
Your crowd funding help now is essential. It gets us started immediately. Flying balloons to the edge of space for testing is an expensive exercise and we have a 7 hour drive each way to get into areas of low air traffic away from the major aircraft trunk routes. We also have to buy a lot of radio systems to allow remote control from the ground when the glider is up to 100kms distance.
You can click on one of the 2 crowd funding links at the top right of the page. Even $1 will help unlock new discoveries and bed down older science.
The X2 Technology
We will have a camera in the nose of the aircraft and it will transmit TV images to the pilot on the ground. Jason will be either in a darkened room with a monitor or wearing goggles allowing him to see the view from the on-board camera. This provides what is known as First-person Point of View (FPV). The aircrafts instruments will be overlaid on the video signal. This is known as “On Screen Display” or OSD. Below is a view typical of what will be seen by Jason as he lands the craft.
The video signal must travel over 100kms to be assured of the craft being in the radius of the equipment’s limits. Similarly we must send commands to the control surfaces of the radio controlled aircraft. Again this must work at a distance of over 100kms. The craft has ailerons, elevators and rudder as well as air-brakes and other systems that need controlling. We will use a 10 channel system to ensure that we have full control of every aspect of the craft and a “binding” system will ensure that only we can fly the aircraft.
We will have to buy a $5,000 GPS unit capable of sampling at what is essentially the speed of a missile. These are highly restricted items, but essential. The unit will record to an SD card and send back telemetry every second. It is essential to know the speed during the flight rather than waiting until after the event. After all Jason needs to know the speed to be able to fly the aircraft. We will also need 2 x radar transponders to allow other aircraft and air traffic controllers to know where our craft is and our balloon is at any time. They will eventually separate.
The Big Event
We can expect global TV News coverage of the event and many records to be broken. The day will start by filling a large Zero Pressure Balloon like the one pictured below.
The balloon will carry the aircraft to over 40km where it will be released and go into a steep dive and break the sound barrier. As the air thickens, the speed will slow and the craft will be pulled out of the dive and leveled off to drop speed. The aircraft will eventually land and data and video records will be recovered. We will already know the top speed, but there is nothing like solid data rather than radio telemetry that may miss the odd data packet. Both the balloon and the aircraft will be transmitting live video.
There will be opportunities to attend, but it is likely to be in a rather remote part of Queensland – possibly Longreach. The flight will be broadcast over the Internet and the opportunity to track and follow the flight will be available to all. The chance to be involved is high and the science and inspiration will be out of this world. Project ThunderStruck is set to thrill.
Visit our sister site wotzup.com for more space and balloon stories.