GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Prizes

Vilko Klein Team Stellar CTOTeam Stellar GLXP Update

Below is a page from the Team Stellar website. It is a story about teamwork and since I was very much involved, I have added the team story below. You can read this and more on the team blog at the GLXP site (Google Luna X Prize):

GLXP Terrestrial Milestone Prizes

This year is closing to its expiry date, and we have only two more years ahead of us to complete the Lunar mission. Google Lunar XPRIZE felt a kind of a deadlock in most of the teams progress, and assumed that this is mainly due to the inability of fundraising in the difficult years for the world economy, so they decided to help the teams with the Terrestrial Milestone Prize opportunity.

 What is good for the teams about Terrestrial Milestone Prizes? Many things, I would say.

First of all, there is a possibility to get a considerable amount of money. The Terrestrial Milestone Prize, as a proof of the value of the team and its project, as well as the prize money, can also help the team improve their chances to find sponsors for the entire mission.

All the teams have more or less developed plans and designs for the Lander, Rover and other systems, but it is not a bad thing to present your plans to the experts in the field (Judging Panel) for evaluations.

Vilko Klein Team Stellar CTO

Vilko Klein CTO at Team Stellar

Our team presented the Milestone Definition Data Package (MDDP) for two categories Mobility and Imaging. The Project Manager for the definition of the data package was our CTO Vilko Klein. Vilko organized a working group to produce MDDP. Designated members did their part depending on the their expertise field. The deadline was too short for us, but, with some extra efforts, lost nerves, lots of coffee and burning the midnight oil all around the globe, we managed to finish on time.

Last month, we parted with our important member and executive Brandon Arroyo. Although our paths diverged, we wish Brandon good luck and success in his career

ITAR and Australia – Not Happy!

Tidbinbilla NASA Deep Space Network DSN 70m dishThe US ITAR Regulations and Australia

My rant for the day about ITAR. Well, I am ranting about ITAR most days! It is a rather difficult situation where another country’s regulations are imposed on your country. Well how did this happen? First I had better explain what ITAR is. This from Wikipedia:

International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) is a set of United States government regulations that control the export and import of defense-related articles and services on the United States Munitions List (USML). These regulations implement the provisions of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), and are described in Title 22 (Foreign Relations), Chapter I (Department of State), Subchapter M of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) interprets and enforces ITAR. Its goal is to safeguard U.S. national security and further U.S. foreign policy objectives. The related Export Administration Regulations (Code of Federal Regulations Title 15 chapter VII, subchapter C) are enforced and interpreted by the Bureau of Industry and Security in the Commerce Department. The Department of Defense is also involved in the review and approval process. Physical enforcement of import and export laws at border crossings is performed by Customs and Border Protection, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security.

Simply put, Australia has forged a close trade alignment with the USA and to obtain those trade concessions, we had to agree to ITAR. This makes it very difficult indeed to work in the space sector and still obey Australian laws and ITAR. One simple issue is Australian Discrimination law. These are strong and rigidly enforced and in essence making everyone equal. Even those with temporary visas that allows work in Australia. There are also those with dual or multiple citizenship and ITAR has issues with this. It even affected NASA’s Australian Deep Space Network near Canberra. I was there last April and recently posted this on Facebook:

I was invited to NASA’s 40th Anniversary celebrations of the 70m (230ft) diameter dish at their Deep Space Network (DSN) site near Canberra in Australia. It was in April 2013 – earlier this year. Note the three flags in the image below – the US, Australian and CSIRO. The CSIRO is an Australian organisation that has been contracted to run the site for many years – CSIRO stands for Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.  Continued below…

Australia has close security arrangements with the US and we have access to ITAR restricted material under special trade arrangements with the US government. Australia is therefore somewhat controlled by the ITAR regulations in unusual ways. CSIRO ran into issues with ITAR as some of their employees were legally citizens from other countries. This is a bit of a red flag under ITAR rules and it is also a breach of Australian law if you remove staff from certain areas because of race – we have strong anti-discrimination laws here in Australia. The only way that we got around this was to absorb all the Australian DSN staff into the government as government employees and that satisfied ITAR. So basically we now have rules written by a foreign government that are also enforced in Australia – crazy. I guess if they change ITAR, we also have to change!

I am glad that we have good security arrangements with the US, but it is hard for me to work in the space sector when one of my main aerospace engineers at PlusComms holds three passports! I remain concerned about the ITAR minefield I am crossing in my company.

This is also a minefield for our team in the Google Lunar X-Prize – Stellar Aerospace – our new name. We have many countries involved and their laws on exporting knowledge and equipment are all part of the equation.

Robert Brand

Slingshot Effect

Robert brand 2013Also Free Return Trajectory

I mentioned in a recent post on another website (Facebook) about the real issues about “slingshot Effect” and what it really was all about.

The following is a short bit of discussion on that. It has relevance to my current work as Tim Blaxland and I are working on Stellar’s Google Lunar X Prize documentation. Tim (below) is Stellar’s navigator or to use a more colourful word, our “Astrogator”. He joined the discussion.

Tim BlaxlandThere was some small confusion as I was aware of the Apollo free return trajectory. Note that my comments refer to the fact that even with free return, there are rockets and thrusters to be fired / used for a number of different reasons such as speed and improving the target of the flight. Apollo 13 yhad added dificulty as the lunar module’s thrusters were not arond the centre of gravity of the mass and those steering the three joined vehicles were at the rear end of the vessel.

I will add more detail if there are more posts on the subject.

I was asked about “slingshot effect” and found the wiki article is reasonable for a beginner. It is hard to understand the finer points of the poorly named effect.

This gives the basic info. Obviously it is never as simple as the basic equation as you can pretty much never change direction 180 degrees. If you tried to do this with the moon to slingshot back to earth, the gravity and speed would be wrong. No matter what you would need engines to get the equation right for an earth return. The further away you are, the less the effect.

Gravity assist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In orbital mechanics and aerospace engineering, a gravitational slingshot, gravity assist maneuver, or swing-by is the use of the relative movement (e.g. orbit around the sun) and gravity of a planet or other celestial body to alter the path and speed of a spacecraft, typically in order to save prop…
Cassini_interplanet_trajectoryThis from Wikipedia about the above diagram:The Cassini probe – multiple gravity assistsThe Cassini probe passed by Venus twice, then Earth, and finally Jupiter on the way to Saturn. The 6.7-year transit was slightly longer than the six years needed for a Hohmann transfer, but cut the extra velocity (delta-v) needed to about 2 km/s, so that the large and heavy Cassini probe was able to reach Saturn, which would not have been possible in a direct transfer even with the Titan IV, the largest launch vehicle available at the time. A Hohmann transfer to Saturn would require a total of 15.7 km/s delta-v (disregarding Earth’s and Saturn’s own gravity wells, and disregarding aerobraking), which is not within the capabilities of current launch vehicles and spacecraft propulsion systems.

  • Hitesh ॐ Mohan “Although the lunar landing was aborted (Apollo 13), the crew continued toward the moon and circled it so its gravity could provide a slingshot effect for the return to Earth.”…/

    Apollo 13 Commander Remembers the Aborted Moon MissionApollo 13 crew arrive on the prime recovery ship U.S.S. Iwo Jima following the ocean landing and rescue in the South Pacific. Exiting the helicopter are (from left) Fred Haise, mission Commander James Lovell and John Swigert. Click to Enlarge. Cr…

  • Kurt Kammeyer Technically, it was called a “free return trajectory”.
  • Robert Brand you still have a lot of maneuvering and firing of rockets / thrusters to make that happen. Things have to be very precise.
  • Robert Brand “After circling the Moon once and creating a speedy free-lunar return trajectory, the LM descent engine was fired twice to establish an even faster return path. The descent engine was fired twice during the return flight to correct the spacecraft’s trajectory.”
  • Hitesh ॐ Mohan What was the escape velocity from the the moment the lunar module, escaped the lunar atmosphere and at what speed did the craft sail at to return home?
  • Robert Brand Firstly there is no lunar atmosphere (well, nothing to write home about). I do not know the speeds.Maybe someone can advise.
  • Royce Jones This effect could be used to help power a Starship.
  • Tim Blaxland Robert, you can do a free return, literally free. Apollo 8, 10 & 11 used this trajectory. I have simulated these trajectories to verify. Later missions didn’t use true free return trajectories because they were trying to squeeze more payload onboard and open up a wider range of landing sites. True free return trajectories we just too restrictive. The hybrid trajectories were similar but required some thrust to get back to Earth. The deviation of the hybrid trajectory from the free return trajectory was limited so that a return could be achieved using either the SPS, DPS or SM RCS (but not the LM RCS). There is a very good essay on the subject here:

    Launch Windows Essay
    Let’s go to the moon. When shall we go? Right away. Where shall we go? Copernicus, Gassendi, Marius Hills? Let choose along the way.
  • Robert Brand Great to know Tim. There must have been a very lucky relationship with the size of the moon, the orbital speed of the moon, etc. I understand that once the mass is big enough, it is all a matter of distance from the object to get the free return trajectory right, but I was unaware that the moon was right. None the less, as I said, if the free return was possible, it was going to take some firing of rockets / thrusters, etc to get her home because the trajectory would not have been accurate enough. I read that it was a free return, but there was no way they were escaping the need to burn the LEM descent engine – in this case – twice! The burn coming out of the moon was two fold – much of it was to give them more speed to hasten their return trip to get back to earth. The final one was to course correct or end up cinders. They still had to orient the capsule after jettisoning everything so that they did not skip off the earths atmosphere and into space. Plenty to go wrong. My point was that they had to use thrusters and engines to get home. It was not quite hybrid, but it was a real problem. With the thrusters gone on the service module and I believe the command module (could someone in the know verify), it is like driving a car from the trunk / boot. Very hard indeed. The thrusters would not have been in the centre of mass.
  • Tim Blaxland Yes, the CM RCS were disabled to keep enough energy in the CM batteries for reentry, along with everything else they could possibly turn off.
  • Robert Brand Yes, I believed that the thrusters were non operational on the CM.