First, an apology. We have been too busy to post too much. Life gets busy. This update may surprise a few of you as it is a massive project and it will take millions of dollars to complete, but tests have begun and a Joint Venture with a Sydney University is in the wind. I was there 2 days ago working on our first dedicated test flight using a super pressure balloon and flying the unit to the stratosphere. hovering for a while and then descending back to earth. It all costs money and we are looking for a sponsor of course. The concept and initial designs are also in front of the Australian Air Force as this will be an obvious watch dog for anything from battle fields to border protection. Drones with wings are used at the moment and they are hugely expensive. This will be a fraction of the price of operation and initial cost.
We have nicknamed it a StratoDrone for obvious reasons – it lives in or just below the Stratosphere. We need to finalise the image before we get ahead of the objectives, but it will look something like the image here. This is drone is not space, but the opportunities for space research are enormous. As we at ThunderStruck Aerospace (our commercial business) begin the long task of produce our own our StratoDrone, we start with a shape and test it on the PC and in any wind tunnels that we can use., it takes shape, morphing slightly as we test the drag and flight parameters. This image is the first pass. It is way to big in the tail and there needs to be a better tapper along its length. The tail fins need to be about 1/4 the size. There is no steering on the fins although I am considering a gimballed set of rotors on the very rear. This would have to be a sunset image with the light so low. The StratoDrone will sit on station at 20Km or higher or lower depending on winds.. The instrument Nacelle will be slung under the forward ring and is not shown at this angle. The StratoDrone is expected to revolutionise communications / radar and observation, bush fire fighting and almost anything. A stunning video of its operations and capability will be available soon. This is a sample photo only and not the final product.
The Stratosphere or Bust:
This was posted on Facebook and the comments were:
Robert Brand: Hey, John, we are starting on our StratoDrone. it is not for people, but equipment that can stay stationary in the sky – “on station” for months at a time, or cruise the coast for erosion, illegal fishing or whatever. The cost curve to operate is way under commercial drones and the ability to stay in one place a real opportunity for telecommunications. It is not space, but the future is one step closer. By the way, the gap between the troposphere and the Stratosphere is called the Tropopause. We live in the troposphere and so do the jet streams. The Stratosphere starts at about 16Km to 20Km (10 miles to 12.5 miles) altitude depending on your location, season and more.
Victor: Wow !!! I have been looking for a static drone for 30 years ! My dreams come true ! ya I know a blimp is great! Any Facebook page for it ?
Robert Brand: In case anyone thinks that this platform is not a massive benefit to space, let me suggest 2 uses to start the ball rolling.
1/. Stable telescope platforms
2/. Comms downlinks with massive coverage
Telescopes – Imagine being able to launch a 100Kg telescope to close to 30Km altitude and only have 1% of the atmosphere above you. Without the earth’s atmosphere to interfere with observations,you might as well have a telescope in orbit only this one you can bring back down and swap out the payload the next day and relaunch. The opportunity for space research will take on a whole new meaning with short low cost refits and redeploys within a day. Somewhat a cross between NASA’s Sofia aircraft and a low orbiting spacecraft. Other sensors can be fitted without having to wait for a launch of a spacecraft.
Communications – Unlike ground based radios, that can only see a spacecraft from horizon to horizon with all sorts of caveats such as mountains that may block the signal, thick atmospheric issues that will attenuate the signal, being 20Km to 30Km up, a passing spacecraft will have a good and clear signal available for a much longer time in a pass. The footprint to communicate with passing craft and the signal strength necessary will improve greatly. In other words, it will have acquisition for much longer and accept much lower power levels. This makes it an ideal platform for a whole range of things, but especially as a downlink for small spacecraft such as cubesats. Uplinks are usually not an issue as the ground can increase its power levels to make comms easy. The StratoDrone however will be able to see further than ground based systems, thus increase the number of viable passes possible.
These machines may replace many spacecraft functions, but mainly to free them up for other projects. The most congested radio frequencies are for geostationary spacecraft at 36,000Km altitude. With this technology, we are effectively a geostationary object at 20Km altitude. The possibilities are endless and the emergency facilities is can provide when ground based infrastructure has been destroyed is phenomenal. Once these machines are fully operational, they will be here to stay..
There is no page yet, but I will be posting an update here soon.
Steven: Very interesting Robert. What is the payload mass for your balloon? How do you deal with the problem of high altitude wind?
Robert Brand: We sit at the transition between the stratosphere and troposphere. The winds are minimal in the tropopause. The occasional reversal of winds creates an issue. This does not happen between the tropics so it is best use is southern parts of the US and northern parts of Australia or in most of the worlds trouble zones. Payload mass maybe 100 to 200 kg. Maybe much more depending on the final size of the machine and the maximum altitude.