by Staff Writers
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Nov 12, 2014
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) - accelerate to close to Mach 2 and slow to under the speed of sound to land
+ Sounding rocket to space and land (Dec 2016). As above
+ 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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