Update – The Links in the ThunderStruck Chain

dstoUpdate – Things Happen in Order

Defence Science & Technology Organisation

I am pleased to say that we have finally gotten permission to announce that we have support from the Australian Department of Defence through the Defence Science and Technology Organisation. This is huge and we knew this would be pivotal to the direction that we took. It has taken time to finalise the arrangements and I am pleased to say they are on board as supporters and we hope that this will go one step further, but we will wait until next week for the final outcome. Even getting them as supporters is huge. We have already been their guests and invited to Brisbane to discuss hypersonics. As part of the arrangements, the hypersonics team will be providing mentoring to Jason, answering any questions to make ThunderStruck a success.

groundcover - Landscape around Longreach, Queensland.Longreach, Queensland

This now means that we can finalise a site for the launch and I can say that we are looking at Longreach in Queensland. It is flat and there is nothing much around to cause issues to the launch or landing. It seems ideal. I have spoken with the Mayor of Longreach and all is good from our first chat. Of course there is a lot more to consider. The concerns of the locals, the weather, the logistics and so much more, but so far so good


So where is Longreach? Let’s say it is a large town in Central Queensland. It is large by Central Queensland standards, but not big by coast Australian town comparisons. Once you see the area, you will understand. Let’s just say it is flat – very flat. Let’s also say that dust will be our biggest problem if the wind gets up.

The list below tells a story – these are the nearest big towns that most Australians know! A trip to McDonalds will cost you about $200 and day out of your life!

It will be a three day trip from Sydney with a large trailer or truck and we had better not forget anything. It will be a tough ride back to Sydney to pick up that essential part. The wet season looks like it will be very dry and that may be a problem. I suggested to the Mayor that we could hose down the launch area to stop the dust. His comment was “Where will ou get the water?” The sooner I get to town, the better. We really need to know what we are up against if we are to fly from Longreach. On a more positive note, we seem to be in a reasonable spot from a Civil Aviation Perspective. We need to be away from trunk routes.

Longreach city

Where Longreach is,5k
1181km north west of Brisbane1767km south west of Cairns

1854km east of Alice Springs

687km west of Rockhampton

416km to the nearest McDonalds

Airline Sponsorship / Support

So the next link in the chain is to get some help from an airline and we have something. We will finalise this shortly and announce the level of support. I need to get to Longreach and meet the various groups that would have an interest in the project. I need to learn about the mobile phone coverage and which carriers have the best coverage. We will be reporting on the support from carriers in another Update.

Once we visit Longreach, we can approach CASA (Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority).


Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA)

CASA has said that we need to apply for Area Approval   to conduct the flight. This will require us to pay for the work that CASA needs to do to get the approval sorted out. This may be a “yes” or “no” and we may need to do more work to finally get a “yes”. We will need funding for the CASA work. it is not likely to be as much as $5K or more, but it is an unknown and may be as small as $1.5K. We have to prepare for the cost and the answer – positive or negative. It may be that they require us to move the launch site slightly to keep it clear of airline trunk routes. Our request must also answer safety questions and out mitigation or avoidance systems. It is up to us to demonstrate how we will make this flight safe for other aircraft sharing the sky.

Other Groups

Finally, there are many organisations that would like to support our activities, but are concerned that they may be supporting a group that is not following CASA’s rules and regulations. They need to see that we are doing the right thing or it could damage their relationship with CASA. The help that we need today may take months to secure – especially with the holidays season around the corner.

Luckily we are not launching until April! We look forward to the next Update.

Press Release 2

Jason's CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

Jason’s CAD picture of ThunderStruck above the earth

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.

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

About Jason – by his Father

IMG_3215A Father’s Point of View

by Robert Brand

There is no doubt that my son Jason has a talent. He is tenacious. Once he sets his mind to do something, he does not stop until he has it completed. Project ThunderStruck is one of those goals. He has the knowledge and experience in every aspect of the mission and although it seems daunting, he can put it together for a successful outcome. Let’s breakdown the stages of the mission:

  • Balloon flight to over 40Km altitude
  • Radio telemetry and control
  • Supersonic flight
  • Autonomous landing
  • Celebrations –  well we are all good at this, so enough said!

Balloon flight to over 40Km altitude

Jason started launching balloons with me at 9 years old and after the first flight and successful recovery he was hooked. As of the date of this post we have jointly launched and recovered 21 payloads including 2 in Croatia. He has battled large balloons with heavy payloads in 70kph ground winds and used 3kg weather balloons to take heavy payloads to 1/3 the way to space (33.33Km). He is the tracker and navigator that sits in the passenger seat while I drive. He has the tablets/iPads, phones, navigation systems and radio systems. I just get to do the driving. At 12 years old he is now a capable navigator comfortable on remote rural back roads, dirt tracks, farm roads and worse. Not bad for a city boy. I trust him to know his stuff and I now consider him to be a strong partner with me in the UpLift flights. He understands zero pressure balloons, and like me has yet to fly one, but I have no doubt that he will have the skill to make it happen when the time comes. The picture above shows Jason launching our first balloon and payload from Rankins Springs, NSW.

Radio telemetry and control

At age 9, Jason went and passed his Foundation Amateur Radio License test. He went to a course at Waverley Amateur Radio Club and passed his exam. The rest of the group studying were adults and some had to come back to try again and I am happy to say that they eventually passed. Jason now has his own HF radio at home and is learning advanced electronics. He has test equipment such as a spectrum analyser, oscilloscope, laboratory power supplies and a large number of radio systems to play with. He will be getting his advanced license soon enough. Until then he has to operate under the license of an advanced operator by his side. None the less he is capable of the work of building interfaces and items essential to his project.

Supersonic flight

Well, not many people have that experience and most UAVs are subsonic. There would only be a handful of people in the world that would have controlled a supersonic UAV. Jason will practice on simulations and some powered models to understand the responsiveness of the craft. He will get that experience before the event.

Autonomous landing

Salt Lake_1_main

We have a great sponsor – soon to be announced that will assist in educating Jason and me about their system. We may land on a salt lake marked with vegetable dye and Jason may take over the landing at the last minute. There is a lot to understand about the accuracy of autonomous landings, but autonomous flight will be simple. Why have autonomous flight. Simple, the site at which Jason breaks the sound barrier may be a long way from the landing site and he will have to travel there by car. He will place it in autonomous mode and then go to the landing site. The landing site might be a long way away as the Jet Stream can produce strong winds. Our balloons have experienced winds up to 230kph. Why take over the landing? It is simply the error that may exist in the GPS of altitude. If it is not accurate enough, Jason may have to intervene to ensure that it does not flare out will it is 10m above the ground or worse still 10m below the ground – that would make a big crunch after a magnificent flight. We will have to discuss native rights to the salt lakes and ensure that we are not stepping on indigenous toes with all of this. There are many aspects to consider, including ensuring we are not in trunk airline routes. Why a salt lake? Well, it may be easier than finding an airfield away from any population and it is flat all around. If you go off the runway, then it is still flat!

A quick Summary of the Project and Jason:

I had to recently summarise the project and Jason

Jason overheard me, his father, talking about the testing phases of a winged re-entry vehicle that we are building and the three testing phases: Transition to subsonic flight, return from space, de-orbit and land. He effectively “hijacked” the transonic testing phase. He proposed a zero pressure balloon to take the aircraft (code named ThunderStruck) to over 40km altitude and release it. He will pilot it remotely by radio control with a TV camera in the cockpit and instruments overlaid on the screen. He will “see” the view from the cockpit by wearing video googles as if he is there. Thunderstruck will reach speed of around 2,000kph before landing using nothing more than gravity. He has to demonstrate control at all phases of the flight.

Update 2

GLXP_Team_Logo_StellarUpdate 2. Sponsorship, Funding, Media and Visits!

Things are brewing and the project is about to rise to new heights – pun intended.

Keep an eye out for a new and incredible set of sponsors. Hey, we still need the KickStarter funding and that seems to have stalled, but we will be a fast finisher to get the goal level because simply this project needs your help. Ever want to help build a spacecraft? This is your chance to go in the records for all time that you helped ThunderStruck. Keep an eye out for our New Sponsors over the next few weeks!

PlusComms scaled Down Banner LogoI can tell you that the company I work for, PlusComms Pty Ltd, is a new Bronze Sponsor and so is Team Stellar, the amazing team going to the moon with a rover. Part of the Google Luna X Prize event. We know that they are amazing as i am a senior consultant for the team and Jason is a Student Representative. We they are amazing with our without us to be honest…. The head of team Stellar Captain Stjepan Bedić has agreed to be an adviser to Project ThunderStruck. Thanks Stjepan!

More on our sponsors in another post very soon.


KickStarter logoThe campaign got off to a bad start with my lack of experience. Add to that some massive changes in the projects direction and I will probably have to stop the current KickStart project and re-do the whole thing, coordinating the marketing better with the support opportunities. Yes, always something new to master, even when it is something as off-topic for ThunderStruck, as raising funds for the project.

scramspace_highres3So what is New?

DSTO’s Hypersonics Laboratory Visit!

Pretty much everything. We have some massive allies out their that really believe in the project. As you may know Australia is partnering with the US in SCRAM-JET technology and Australia is a world leader in scram-jet technology and test flights. The Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) that is responsible for orchestrating much of Australia’s strategic direction have invited Jason and I to travel to Brisbane to visit their Hypersonics Laboratory next Tuesday. Stay tuned for any fun stuff that comes from this and of course serious stuff! We will be talking to world experts in supersonic flight. There is of course a lot of synergy between the projects at a basic level as it is all about supersonic flight. I promise to bring back lots of pictures. In the meantime have a look at these links:

Click Below to read more::

HIFiRE program          Hypersonic Flight


Avalon Airshow Feb 2015

It looks like we will be attending this major airshow in a few months time. There will be a significant opportunity to inspire kids with one of our airframes that we will use for the flight. We will have the real thing at the show and Jason will explain the fine details to anyone interested.

Click here for the show details: Avalon Airshow


newspapersMedia Appearances

It looks we will be in the press a lot during the life of this project and we already have had our fair share of press:

SMH / Age / Canberra Times, etc: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/boy-12-aims-to-break-the-sound-barrier-20141013-115i4v.html

SMH, etc Tech story: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/sci-tech/ask-fuzzy-superpressure-balloons-reach-for-stars-20141009-113kr7.html

Daily Telegraph: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/breaking-news/year-old-wants-to-break-sound-barrier/story-fni0xqi3-1227089019536

We are also in all the local papers, but their stories are pretty poor and misleading. One paper showed a balloon payload, but spoke about Jason building a supersonic craft. They did say however that he had not started building the craft.

Radio interviews have happened in Melbourne and soon in Sydney – the Linda Mottram Morning Show on 702 has us booked in as does the Breakfast show. Sunrise will be videoing us next week for a story. We will appear on Science shows and expect that a documentary will be filmed of the whole event.

Stay Tuned – we will keep you updated.