HAM Radio Underpinning Mars Mission

HAM Radio Support for Mission

Aussie HAM Radio Operator to Make an Impact on Mars

HAM Radio Operator Robert Brand VK2URB11 impacts to be precise. Early next year on a salt lake in Central Australia an Australian HAM radio operator will be conducting tests of a wide area radio network destined for Mars

Robert Brand, VK2URB, of Thunderstruck Aerospace reports that it is an essential part of a project to develop the Mars Nano-Lander and Methane detection system called MEDIAN, set to land in 2025.

It calls for 10 separate penetrators to be ejected from the jettisoned heat shield at about 6km from the surface of Mars. They will spear into the surface of Mars at 80m/second and form a ring about 8Km wide. The radio systems will begin measuring distance between the other landers and map the network. They will then switch to a random packet mode and begin ferrying messages to the 11th unit that will be a relay to an orbiting craft. Even the orientation of each probe will be detected and used to calculate the direction that wind (and hopefully any methane)is coming from in the thin Martian atmosphere.

Robert VK2URB says that the audacious mission is a joint project with the UK Methane detection group at the University of Central Lancashire and the Australian Thunderstruck Aerospace team. Robert is the design architect of the landing system, the mapping, orientation, communications, data relay, and the on-going non-methane science package. He says that never before has a network of probes been landed anywhere outside of earth and never before have impactors landed with the intention of surviving the process. Also never before has Australia directly played such a huge role in any Mars mission.

The possibility of microbial life on Mars has been discussed by scientists since the presence of methane gas on the red planet was found several years ago. Median will map possible methane vent locations for a rover to investigate. If the rover fails to land, the project will still relay local weather and subsoil information back to earth.

It’s expected that the tests in central Australia during April 2017 will demonstrate the essential role that radio will play in mapping, locating, orienting the network and then relaying data around the network. The tests will involve dropping a simulated heat shied from 3Km altitude and having the impactors fire at 2.5Km feet to simulate the impact that each would have on Mars. We will work with CASA to organise restricted airspace for the testing.

Even the orientation of each probe will be detected and used to calculate the direction that wind is coming from in the thin Martian atmosphere. The penetrators will stay vertical and will elevate the science and radio package about 1m off the surface allowing for better radio connectivity and clear wind profile. A 1M in diameter solar panel will provide adequate power and the network is expected to survive for at least 6 month on Mars relaying weather and sub surface information from fixed points around an area the size of a small city. It is expected that 7 of the 10 spikes will survive the impact.

HAM radio will provide essential communications for the tests and for the event. It is hoped a special event around the testing will attract the interests of HAM operators world-wide, focusing attention of the role that Australia is playing in space missions.

Footnote: It should be noted that no commercial activity will take place as part of the testing, allowing HAM radio support. HAM Radio is a strictly non commercial activity.

Aussies Working on Mars Median Mission

Mars showing landscape similar to our landing site

Mars NanoLander Network

Well, who would have thought? I am the architect of a real Mars mission. A fantastic project and an incredible program for me to really “launch into space”. Our new company – ThunderStruck Aerospace – is heavily involved in the mission and we will keep you up to date as we progress.

Space Just got Simpler with the launch of ThunderStruck Aerospace. Looking for aerospace solutions that work? ThunderStruck is based on working with problems, not against them. Where others try to counter the problem, we try to use the problem to advantage. An example is our latest project Mars Median. The task was to gently land 10 or more probes in a tight network on Mars. Near Impossible, right? In fact the “experts” said that it can’t be done. That is because they were simply trying to fight the problem of getting rid of all velocity. Enter ThunderStruck. In 2013 we were invited to solve this problem – successfully landing a network on Mars.

We decided to keep some of that velocity and use it to advantage. A ring of Mars impactors. They are designed to land our packages off the ground by about a metre or so because having a methane experiment in clear unobstructed air mattered. It was also good for the radio network. Getting rid of a parachute was also critical. A parachute on top of any of our experiments would be a waste. Landing at 80 – 90m/s is both survivable and important to success. Having a probe in the ground can increase the science that we can do and improve the efficiency of the Methane experiment.

A Nanolander needs to use almost everything twice to save on mass. The collar that we use to to limit the velocity also doubles as a solar panel and the tungsten tipped penetrator is both a sensor and earth mat. The radio network is both a communications system and a topography mapper. Reuse and embracing the benefits of what may seem your enemy is what ThunderStruck is all about. The Median Mars mission is not our only project, but it best demonstrates the power of thinking in new ways.

Read more about the design and integration of the experiment into the back of a heatshield by selecting Median from our menu at http://thunderstruck.space

If you need an innovative aerospace partner, think ThunderStruck.