Where is our Australian Space Agency?

Robert brand 2013 - discussing a Space AgencyAustralia Deserves a Space Agency.

I recently wrote a letter to the minister for Industry, Innovation and Science – The Hon. Arthur Sinodinos AO. I asked for support of Support for MEDIAN was not necessarily financial. I also asked about the rather essential Space Agency.

At this time I will just post my letter and the government’s response.

There maybe some updates from the Minister’s office in the next couple of days. I expect something to happen later in the year, but what it will be is a little up in the air. I will reserve my judgement for a couple of days. The Minister’s office may just decide to respond with a better outcome.


Dear Sir,

I would like to introduce myself. My name is Robert Brand and I am the manager at ThunderStruck Aerospace (ThunderStruck), a section of PlusComms that is soon to be its own company. ThunderStruck has been formed to bring to market a number of major aerospace innovations that are also very important to Defence. These are mainly my intellectual property. These include:

  • A StratoDrone capable of staying in the same location for months at a time at an altitude of 16Km to 20Km. It will cut the cost of Drone requirements dramatically and can provide communications to regions of Australia without the need for satellite coverage and latency.
  • A passive laser reflector that when scanned, returns a digital ID. Useful for space navigation, but also land based applications.
  • A Mars Mission called MEDIAN. MEthane Detection by In-Situ Analysis with Network. This mission has completed the first three milestones in the US and UK and is now been handed to Australia to bring to completion on Mars.
  • Other work from team members include a major launch facility near Darwin, a solid rocket booster (SRB) that can also double as a sounding rocket and a winged re-entry vehicle. These later projects have had planning work completed, but ThunderStruck will focus on the top three for business reasons. We are simply too small at this time to tackle anything else.

My work in the space sector dates back to Apollo 11. I am arguably Australia’s leading Space Entrepreneur and by the work that I do, an aerospace engineer and innovator. At the age of 17 I was involved in construction of the Sydney Apollo 11 video centre in Australia with the feeds from Honeysuckle Creek and the Parkes Radio Telescope. I supported almost every mission from Apollo 11 to STS-1 and a minor support role in in Shuttle flights right up to 1985. In that time I worked at the Parkes Radio Telescope in support of Voyager’s Uranus encounter and ESA’s Giotto mission to Halley’s Comet. I was instrumental in finding and repairing faults in critical ESA systems at Parkes that had eluded ESA staff for 6 months.

In recent times I have been working on stratospheric research and I am involved with Murdoch University and Sydney University in the development of a Mars flier and a Mars Airship. I am also a regular guest lecturer at Sydney University and have jointly judged cubesat competitions at the University. I have appeared on TV around the world and in print. In Croatia I was invited to a meeting with the President because of the assistance that I was giving to helping students with their stratospheric experiments. It would seem that similar work here of a greater scale goes unnoticed. None the less, the work is not for personal recognition, or I would have stopped doing it a long time ago.

To complete the overview of my involvement in the space sector, I am well respected internationally, being invited to speak at many international conferences, particularly in the USA. I have given three papers at the International Space Development Conference, I am an annual speaker at Spacefest and I am considered to be “part of the Spacefest family”. This year I will be the international speaker at the June AIAA Houston dinner for 200 people. Internationally my credentials are impeccable and my work exemplary. Here in Australia without the backing of a space agency, my work is not as well-known as it is overseas.

The MEDIAN project is simply the biggest opportunity in the space sector that has landed on Australia’s doorstep since the early days of space. The project is internationally accepted as a mission of considerable value. It is expected to have a flight offered in the near future, but the ideal flight to Mars would be with the US rover in about 8 years’ time. That is very short, but NASA interests have requested a white paper to circulate to the mission specialists. That will occur this week.

I became involved in the MEDIAN mission in 2012 when the creator of the mission, internationally renowned astronomer Nick Howes visited Spacefest. In talks he described the complexity of landing a 6 to 12 probe network on mars and he had been told numerous times from many experts: “It can’t be done”. When I was asked, it was because of my work in the stratosphere with high altitude balloons. Although this is why he came to me, it was not the solution that I proposed. It was with penetrators. Essentially taking the approach that “velocity is my friend” rather than something bad. The recent work in a Moroccan Mars simulation in the desert and work in a UK university to confirm the figures that I had established has lead the mission creator to hand the project in its entirety to ThunderStruck in Australia. This now becomes a project controlled 100% here in Australia.

I am writing to you to ask what support there might be from government for this proposed mission as at this time we do not have a Space Agency to push this project forward and clear any hurdles.

My concern is that we are not being a smart country when it comes to space. The marketplace is some US$330B and we only get 1% of that. Only with a Space Agency will we compete and not see this erode.in the long term. For many decades I have heard politicians hide behind the mantra of “we will never be big enough to launch rockets into space”. I find it sickening that New Zealand has both a Space Agency and a launch capability. Yes, the Agency is recent, but the mantra has somewhat educated people that this could never happen. It is not only time to establish an agency, it is important to ensure that this mission is seen as a platform to put Australian Space back in the international running for space innovation. The Space Policy does not address this and it is clear that support is elsewhere as far as a strategic direction is concerned

To suggest that Australia is too small for a Space Agency is self-fulfilling and an insult to innovation that is being squashed in the sector none the less. There is no investment because there is no Agency. I expect to be speaking at the International Astonautical Federation conference to be held in Adelaide Later in the year. I hope to hear an Australian Space Agency announcement then or hopefully before that.

Yours sincerely,

Robert Brand



I sent the letter and I had hoped that this might attract a response of support for the concept of MEDIAN and something way more than I received. When you consider MEDIAN is expected to be the biggest mission to space that Australia will have ever had, I was shocked at the response. Please remember that Jennifer Doyle is the Manager, Civil Space  and Cyber Security. Her position has to toe the line of the limits of what she can say. It is not her response that shocks me, but the lack of any reasonable response by the government. As for a Space Agency, Jennifer has no ability to say anything. I have scanned the response so it is an image.

Where is our Space Agency?

The letter paints a poor future, but this may not be the case.


Sen Arthur Sinodinos 2017-03 Space Agency and MEDIAN response

I was shocked, but realise that Jennifer Doyle could do nothing more. I have spent over half an hour talking to the Senator’s science advisor. I am hoping for a better response, before I escalate this to the press. If you are not across the work that the Senators office is doing, you would not be aware that something is on the way. A Space Agency? Who knows at this stage.

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.

Mars Median Before Breakfast

Early Sketch Mars Spike by Todd HampsomWhat did you do before Breakfast?

by Robert Brand: I spent the morning before breakfast (5am) calculating speeds for the Median Mars impactors and a new slowing system designed to use the worst case situation – low altitude deployment, but still produce a good sized circle of nodes over 8km wide and have them impact near vertically. Important for the methane airflow in the wind. I have sorted out determination of north and south in the absence of a magnetic field to an accuracy of a few degrees. Worked on the correctional systems for the data and the inclusion of a 1m in diameter soft solar panel – a lot of power! We may be able to have every node communicate with an orbital directly.for relay back to earth. There should be enough battery power for a small battery compartment heater to make the night survivable for the battery.

The impact speed will be between 80 and 90 metres per second and we will begin calculations on the g forces after inertial suppression. It is really fun to get something right and not have issues with the maths.my payloads on my stratospheric balloons usually hit the ground or rocks at 8m/s and we are looking at just 10 times that. We have also survived impacts of 40m/s when the parachutes fail to open and we have never had broken equipment. That includes cameras, trackers and other sensitive electronics. This is looking very easily survivable and very powerful. I like it when a plan comes together as well as this one has.his is more than just “doable” This is magnificent.

Thought for the day (after this mornings work) – if you want to work on spacecraft – study mathematics, Astronomy – study mathematics. Rocket propulsion – study mathematics. Navigation – study Mathematics. The core for success in space is Mathematics. It is consistent across the whole sector. Ha! More work before breakfast!

The diagram is from Todd Hampson – one of our core team at ThunderStruck Aerospace. Todd is calculating the braking speeds with air density info, gravity friction, etc, etc. from a supersonic deployment speed in the martian atmosphere, taking into account a lot of transonic forces. Smart guy. The diagram is close to the finished penetrator design, but there are several changes. The design being tested will weigh about 6Kg and use an initial parachute of 2m that gets discarded at altitude.

Nick Howes, the Team Leader, commented: Parachutes may not be viable, as the air mass will be so low surely?

mars-2m-parachute-deployment-graphRobert: Nick, what you don’t know is why you have me working with you on this project and the entire ThunderStruck team. When you are traveling at half the speed of sound a 1% density makes a real difference. Even individual air molecules will eventual pull a satellite from orbit. You can get verification from you UCLAN counterparts. It is all in the maths and the previous work that Todd and I put into understanding the dynamics of transonic air-flows has given us the ability to know what happens in the earth’s stratosphere and that is very similar to Mars. You must trust the experts here. I am currently working on testing a 4 rotor flier at 34Km. There is low density air there, but it is how you use it. This is what opening a 2m chute will do on Mars at high speed with a 6Kg penetrator. It does not do much once the speed reaches 30m per second, but it does slow the beast down. This graph is adjusted for Mars gravity, and air densities. The rate of slowing is immense when the speed is greatest (top of chart). Todd wrote this transonic spreadsheet. It is incredibly complex.

Nick: superb, thank you for the clarification

Robert: I will make public what I can without compromising the mission or the bosses requirements. I hope that you find our design discussions right here on these pages useful. As you can see today, Nick, the boss, is not an expert on parachutes in the martian atmosphere. His brilliance lies elsewhere such as thinking up this mission in the first place. he has to defer that stuff to me and hopefully I will bring the engineering side to the table along with all the dynamic stuff and the electronics and radio gear. Likewise I know nothing about the stuff that Nick does. Individually this mission would have sat on the bench, but these days, with a dynamic team with their own areas of expertise, it is full speed ahead.

Nick: Once the iteration completes (and that has to be soon) then the test/modelling will happen… then we’ll know size for all the science package. At that point., you’re go to start work on comms too… to fit it inside, with the methane sensors etc. We’re prototyping on Arduino/Pi type devices, but will fab radiation hardened custom setups for final flight testing etc

….and this all happened before breakfast…

Mars Live – Australian Tour

Mars Live Australian Tour
Mars Live – 20% Off

Presented by: National Geographic Live – Mars Live!

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Using stunning images and footage from global space agencies and National Geographic Channel’s landmark new television series ‘MARS’, directed by Ron Howard and produced by Brian Grazer, audiences will experience live an exciting journey to the Red Planet our future new home.

Would you like to catch up with me –Robert Brand –  at or before the Sydney event? Leave a comment on this page and I will organise what we will be doing – possibly an early get together before the Mars Live event, but certainly a huge opportunity to meet with some of great people that love space that live around Sydney.

CLICK HERE FOR 20% DISCOUNT: www.ticketek.com.au/mars20



Mars Live Tour Dates:
Ticketek is selling for the following venues only

Fri 4 Nov 2016
Melbourne Town Hall, VIC
Sun 6 Nov 2016
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney, NSW
Mon 7 Nov 2016
Llewellyn Hall, Canberra, ACT
Morocco Mars SIM testing Methane detectors

What is Mars Median – FAQs

Morocco Mars Median SIM testing Methane detectors What, Why, How of Mars Median

Mars Median by Robert Brand       I wrote Wotzup to let people experience some fun space projects to do with space or even in space with basic opportunity like the ISS EarthKam. The Mars Median project is without doubt a major Mars mission that I was not expecting to ever discuss on these pages. I am excited to be able to bring you one of the most amazing personal adventures ever – the chance to let you share an incredible journey to Mars and the chance to bring you my personal experiences as we go forward to explore the red planet. To this end, we may have to delay or cancel other projects that we growing, but that is the nature of having limited time to do everything. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be the architect of a Mars mission and it happened all by a chance meeting with a couple of UK team members and myself in the US

What is Mars Median?

MEDIAN – Methane Detection by In-Situ Analysis with NanoLanders

A network of Methane detectors and wind direction sensors that can detect methane and as the wind changes and the methane covers different sensors over time, the source of the vent can be triangulated. The Mars Median network will be a 10 to 20Km ring with each node also being able to send its results to other nodes and eventually to a Mars rover or relay to a spacecraft and back to earth. The methane detection is for both biological or none biological sources. The rover will locate the vent and test for the origins of the methane. If a biological source, it will tell us that life exists or once existed on Mars. It is the project of a UK team and it not tied to any Space Agency or company.


The search for life outside of the Earth. Methane from biological sources is the goal. Mars Median cannot tell the difference, but a rover can. We would be looking to fly with a rover landing close by.

How did I get Involved?

Nick Howes

Nick Howes and Mars MedianI met Nick at Spacefest in 2012 when I was new to the whole event. I had been asked to speak on the work I was doing to engage everyday people in space. At this stage I was not actually looking at any work in Aerospace Engineering and it was his next question that dragged me into engineering. Nick told me about this incredibly important project called Median and he had asked experts how to land a payload of 10 to 20 nodes in a network across a wide area on Mars – not just a single spot. He said that he had been asking experts from all over the world and everyone had said it was impossible with today’s technology. My initial thoughts included balloon technology, but I had other systems in mind and told him it was 100% doable. Nick has been a real power house keeping Median going until it was almost an essential part of any Mars mission that involved rovers.

The Median Proposal had to be in within 2 weeks and was then the work of Jane MacArthur. She was also at Spacefest and was nervous about whether she would be able to make it happen. I remember sitting down on the last day of Spacefest and telling her she could do it and how important it was.

The proposal has to be submitted within 2 weeks. They had a lot of missing parts to their project. I had to come up with solutions to the following: the deployment of the probes from a canister on the back-shell, the braking in the atmosphere, the landing, the comms between the probes and the spacial awareness of the probes. orientation of the probes on the surface and the precise location of the probes. Finally transmitting the data from the probes to the new rover.

Jane MacArthur

Jane MacArthur and Robert Brand discuss Mars MedianHere is my response back in 2012:

“I may do little else that come up with ideas or I might look after all of these solutions. If i did, it would be a major part of the overall project so that is not likely. The answer was yes. I had solutions within the hour and even better ones by the next morning. All I can say is that the project is now doable. The solutions that are there at the moment may be thrown out in light of better ones, but it gives the project a serious green light at this time. There will be many years of developing even better solutions, but for now it is just a green light for the proposal and I will wait and see if they get to go forward before I do anything.  It is just the fact that they came and asked that I find amazingly refreshing. If it never goes forward, it has still changed my world forever.”

Jane went away and completed the submission in time and then completed the construction of the test detectors ready for testing in the Moroccan desert at a Mars SIM event. The picture at top left is a volunteer deploying a very close test of the detectors to see if the concept was sound.

I never found out about the test results, but you can read about Mars Median on Page 24 of the Moroccan SIM outline – Page 24. There are a wide range of experiments that you can also read about.


My Facebook post of this picture of Jane says:

“Before I depart [Spacefest], here is a picture of the lovely Jane MacArthur who made me an offer that I couldn’t refuse. A trip to Mars of course – well at least as part of a team doing a science experiment – if our proposal gets through! None the less – I am hooked. It is doable and I hope that it gets the green light for 2022. Jane you have rocked my trip to Spacefest in a great way!”

That was the last I heard from the 2013 tests until this week October 2016. All of a sudden, the Mars Median project is in full swing and progressed from basic concept to a fully funded project and testing here in Australia of the deployment system in march / April 2017. Initial expectations of being deployed with ESA’s rover in 2020 sank with the crash of their lander a week before this post.

I have met Jane since at a London Space Conference and she has become an amazing space scientist and has traveled to the most amazing places as part of her space work. I cannot tell you how jealous I am of her experiences in this regard.

Initial Tests:

Read the linked document above for how the tests were conducted and as we now know, they were a success.

Phase 2. All Hands to the Pump:

Nick contacted a few days ago on Social Media and publicly stated – your landing proposal utilising impactors and the communications and mapping system has been accepted “Lock, Stock [and Barrel]”

The testing is being fast tracked for March/April 2017 here in Australia and I am heading that up – plus the comms and mapping work. I have already contacted CASA and discussed the opportunity to test with restricted air space and it is all doable.

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN) is running the Mars Median mission and building the impactors. The timeline at time of printing  indicated:

“Timeline is that the aerodynamic modeling is ongoing NOW, using ANSIS.. that will feed into final design then build. Initial high velocity gun testing possibly in the UK and possibly some shake and bake testing at Goddard, then thinking about March/April 2017 getting prototypes over to you (Robert Brand) with the release mechanism to do drop tests. Internals will be Arduino style systems (maybe PI’s ) with test rigs in place”.

It looks like locating the Mars Median Project on the heat shield of another another mission is an easier and a safer bet than the backshell, so we will test this concept early next year.

More on Mars Median shortly. Please feel free to ask questions.

Look Out Mars, The Aussies are Coming – Median

kangaroo-red-earthMedian Mars Mission for Aussie Designer.

By Robert Brand

Well it looks like Mars, but the Australian red earth is a bit of a Mars analogue. Maybe one day we will settle kangaroos there, given their ability to survive in places with no topsoil. A bit of terra-forming and we can raise the Australian flag. Well why wait until then. The Mars Median mission is happening.

As many of you will know I am an Australian living in Sydney and I entered the Aerospace Engineering sector 5 years ago at the age of 59 without any formal training or a degree. I am now 64 and I am the architect of the mission engineering for a project headed to Mars called “Median”. Yep, we are now working to build prototypes testing them, and fly them to Mars to form a ring of nodes that will talk to each other and relay the data. The essential part is the search for and triangulation of methane vents. The project is funded and phase 2 is well underway.

Australian flagSo how did this Australian end up with this once in a lifetime opportunity? A lot of lateral thinking and ensuring I was in the right place at the right time – Spacefest V in 2013. A glorious meeting of space people with a core group with the attitude of “let’s make it happen”. This was the year that I met Nick Howes from the UK. Nick was involved with Median before the first tests. He had been working with experts who told him that it was impossible to land 10-20 nodes on Mars with today’s technology and keep it as a small secondary mission. Then he asked me.

Within an hour I had a plan to use helium cone shaped balloons to slow the decent. The volume of the helium needed worried, The deployment from the backshell or the heat shield of a major mission was simple and but the balloon part was dead wrong. I started to reduce the size of any air braking until I realised that we could that a bunch of spears or penetrators could actually carry a payload that survives the impact onto Mars. Sure, you need to have crumple zones in the penetrators and you need suspension for the payload, but it was doable and it was survivable. It has been some years since I put forward my proposal, but two days ago Nick messaged me on my Facebook page. The UK group, now entering the second test phase said that they had accepted all on my design points – lock, stock and….. and that we were on a short fuse to get ready for a flight to Mars. This opportunity has never happened before regarding Mars – the closest I can remember someone was Adjunct Professor Brian J. O’Brien who amazingly did the Moon Dust sensors on several of the Apollo flights. His story is a classic, but he was already well accepted into the world of space + a couple of degrees I expect. Another amazing Australian is Warwick Holmes. He was a major engineering influence for the Rosetta mission and the landing of a probe on a comet. So much work and so much knowledge and experience. I expect that my work is much simpler than his, but I revel in the fact that I designed the whole Median system other than the methane detectors. In fact I spent 1.5 hours on the phone chatting on the phone today with Warwick about the things happening in the space sector here in Australia. I look forward to meeting with Warwick in the very near future.

So let’s step back a bit. After the 2013 Spacefest meeting where I also met Jane MacArthur, I was uncertain whether Jane would have enough time to further the Median project. I remember sitting down with her and telling her the importance of finding the methane vents so a rover could go over and determine whether they were from biological sources. Jane was amazing. During her super busy life trying to make a living, her studies and a lot of other things she built and organised some test units to work with a methane source.

Read about that trip here: It was done in Morocco in a North African Mars Simulation. Although the testing could have been done anywhere, this was a great opportunity to combine another science experiment with the Median. Here is the outline of the experiment on Page 24, but you can read up on the SIM mission and the other experiments that they conducted:


The results were good and after several years of looking for funding UCLAN in the UK is not readying for flight – well within the next 8 years, but you have to be ready years before that. UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire – UK) is the lead – I will act as test officer and advisor for several parts of the project. As I indicated in my early proposal for the Median project, we tried for a soft landing for each node, but the volume of helium or hydrogen was a problem with the containment cylinder being a massive problem. The second proposal was absolute. This was the only way to land – with a ground penetrating rod or ‘penetrator”.

As the architect of the Mars landing and deployment system, the self mapping system and the general communications system, I take great pride in that it is going to the next phase of build and test and is fully funded. It was hoped that the ESA 2020 rover may have been able to work with the deployment of the Median Network, but recent issues with ESA’s lander crashing on Mars has left that in doubt and the possibility of working with the NASA 2024 rover seems most likely. In the picture below a volunteer in a Morocco Mars SIM deploys the Methane test units designed by Jane MacArthur. This was a few years back. These missions take a lot of work and time if they are to gain credibility and funding. I will also be doing testing in a remote part of Australia, dropping the heat shield mock-up and watching the penetrators deploy, testing the comms links and designing additional uses for this wide area network of 10-20Km in diameter.


The UK team says: Timeline is that the aerodynamic modeling is ongoing NOW, using ANSIS.. that will feed into final design then build. Initial high velocity gun testing possibly in the UK and possibly some shake and bake testing at Goddard, then thinking about March/April 2017 getting prototypes over to you (Robert Brand) with the release mechanism to do drop tests. Internals will be Arduino style systems (maybe PI’s ) with test rigs in place.

Below is an early sketch of the deployment system in the back-plane of a space capsule with a speed breaking parachute. The same technology can sit within the heat shield, just reversed. Ignore the reference to 1.6km as we are now after a much bigger ring of nodes. Probably they will fire off at 8km altitude.median-deployment-system
The spike below will also have a crumple zone and more suppression for delicate parts in the payload. It is only a rough sketch for better understanding.


Mars Quad Rotor Test Flight Murdoch University PlusComms HABworx

A New Mars Challenge

Mars Quad Rotor Test Flight Murdoch University PlusComms HABworxby Robert Brand

Flying Around Mars

I promised real space adventure when I started WotzUp and I believe that we have delivered, but this post is starting to get serious. We have been approached by Murdoch University to test a Mars Capable Quad-copter in flight at 35km altitude here on Earth!

Flight on Mars will be very difficult and testing will be a huge component in convincing a sponsor to take the technology to Mars. If ti was easy, everyone would be doing it.

read more