News from Team Stellar – Testing

Deep Space Maneuvering Rocket Testing shows Encouraging Results

As you know, Jason and I both hold positions in Team Stellar. I am very pleased to report on the successful first tests of “VECTOR”.

This is from the Team Stellar pages at:

After several long years of R&D efforts in our Experimental Technologies division, our lead Mr. Uroš Kejžar finally ran the first test of his brainchild – liquid-fueled rocket prototype codenamed “VECTOR”. Tests were organized in collaboration with Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Mr. Uroš Kejžar

The general idea is to produce a very small and affordable spacecraft, as large as a coin, with small thrusters which will be cheap to produce and to launch in to the outer space. Swarms of that kind of spacecraft will be able to explore wide sections of the outer space on a low-cost basis. That type of small spacecraft may enable the man to explore asteroids and other celestial bodies through the Solar System and beyond. Potentials for use of the VECTOR thrusters in space explorations are very promising, but the engine had to prove itself through tests. The prototype thruster weighs between two and three grams, but the goal is to produce a thruster under one gram.

This idea came to us as a part of our ‘Beyond the GLXP’ plan, as we are developing solutions that enable access to space. Future plans for our GLXP and beyond GLXP usage of VECTOR technology will be revealed as we see appropriate.

The tests of the VECTOR water engine prototype were conducted in a small sized vacuum chamber. The vacuum chamber used in these tests is a housing made of glass from which all air is removed by a vacuum pump. This procedure creates a low pressure environment within the chamber. The vacuum environment allows the researchers to test mechanical devices which must operate in outer space, because it creates similar conditions. Initial series of tests were all about configuring the testing equipment itself. With such tests, it is incredibly important to properly configure the measurement equipment.

Vacuum chamber

The results of the preliminary tests are promising, because the device worked well in the vacuum conditions, but further tests are necessary to measure the power of the propulsion. Mr. Kejžar will continue with tests this week, and we will have more precise results very soon.

Our expectations of these small thrusters are disproportionately big. Expect further updates as we leave the experimental stage and approach the launch stage.

Project ThunderStruck Launched

Project ThunderStruck set to Break Barriers ThunderStruck vertical

by Robert Brand

Imagine a time when a 12 year student could build a supersonic glider 2.5m / 8ft long, attach it to a huge helium or hydrogen balloon and take it to the edge of space, release it, fly it into a dive back to earth that will reach Mach 1.5 / 1,800kph / 1,120mph and land it. Well that time is now and the student is Jason Brand from Sydney Secondary College / Balmain Campus. He is in year 7 and has already broken plenty of records. Breaking the sound barrier will be another cool record. His flight will break a lot of other records too.

  • Fastest RC plane
  • Fastest glider (of any type)
  • Highest flight
  • The longest dive
  • Youngest person or RC pilot to break the sound barrier
  • there are plenty more, but who’s counting

The event will take 6 to 9 months to complete and the testing started 3 weeks ago when a non-aerodynamic payload (space chicken from Clintons Toyota) reached speeds of 400kph / 250mph with its parachute deployed. This is because the air is pretty thin up at 33.33Km or 1/3 the way to space.

Rankins Springs Free Fall UpLift-19The space chicken was a simple test and we are now happy that we can easily fly at speeds of Mach 1.5 in the very thin air high up in the stratosphere. Left is a picture of the chicken falling back to earth at 400kph. Even the parachute could not slow the payload in the thin air. It slowed down as it reached 28Kms altitude and the air got a bit thicker.

We have started fund raising as we need help to cover the enormous cost of Project ThunderStruck.

If you can offer a dollar or two (every bit counts) we will love you. If you are rich and wish to really help, there are rewards. They are called “Perks” and we have some that I hope you will love. Some of our payloads will go supersonic before the big event, but they will not be aircraft. We might even donate one of our supersonic payloads to a generous contributor.

CLICK HERE TO DONATE with PAYPAL or on the Project ThunderStruck image at top right of the website
Below is the story from the FundRazr Website

Have a Credit or Debit card. We will have a contribution link in a couple of days!

Project ThunderStruck set to Inspire Kids Worldwide.

Fighter jets break the sound barrier every day, but this radio controlled aircraft has no engine, weighs 9Kg (20lbs), is 2.5m (8 ft) long. So the pilot must be a really experience Top Gun to fly this plane at 1,800kph (1,120mph) Well, no. His name is Jason brand and he
is 12 years old
. Can he make this a reality? Yes, he has the experience and the skills. More on that later.

So Why is this Important?

This is probably one of the most important projects that you can support. This is beyond the ability of almost every adult on the
planet, yet a 12 year old student is set to inspire kids around the world with a daring project that is pure STEM – Science Technology Engineering Mathematics. It will make the seemingly impossible the domain of the young if they choose to break down the barriers imposed by themselves or others. Not only that, there is real science going on here.

Jason’s father, Robert Brand, is a well known space entrepreneur. He is designing and testing small winged re-entry vehicles. He was
discussing with Jason the testing fo the transonic phase of the re-entry, that is, the part of the flight transitioning the sound barrier. Jason proposed that he create Project ThunderStruck and that his father asist with the project management.

The Cost

That is the hard part. We will have to do lots of testing and even the record breaking event will cost about $30,000 alone. The total cost will be $80,000 but we will only need $20,000 from crowd funding. If we make more, it will make our fundraising from sponsors a lot easier. Sponsors tend to come on board later, once they see progress.

Your Assistance is Essential

Your help now is essential. It gets us started immediately. Flying balloons to the edge of space for testing is an expensive exercise and we have a 7 hour drive each way to get into areas of low air traffic away from the major trunk routes. We also have to buy a lot of radio systems to allow remote control from the ground when the glider is up to 100kms distance.

Who is Jason Brand?

He is a 12 y/o student from Sydney Secondary College, Balmain Campus in Sydney, Australia.

He carried out his first High Altitude Balloon (HAB) project at age 9 and was so inspired that he sat for his amateur radio license at 9 years old. Since then he has launched a total of 19 HAB flights and recovered all 19. Some flights were in Croatia where mountains, swamps and landmines are risks not seen in Australia. He is also the Student Representative for Team Stellar – A Google Lunar X-Prize team attempting to get a rover onto the moon.

J20130414 Jason Brand on the Fuzzy Logic Science Showason appears on Radio and TV regularly and the picture right shows him talking about HAB flights on Canberra’s Fuzzy Logic Science Show in 2013. He is also a member of the Australian Air League, Riverwood Squadron. He plans to solo on his 15th birthday.

His father Robert Brand is an innovator in creating low cost solutions for spaceflight. He speaks regularly at international conferences, is a regular guest lecturer on aerospace at Sydney University, writes about aerospace and takes a very “hands on” approach to space. He supports Jason’s project fully.

How will ThunderStruck work?

The same way that the first pilots broke the sound barrier: in a steep dive. The problem is that since there is no engine and the biggest issue is air resistance, Jason will launch the aircraft from over 40km or nearly half way to space! He will get it there on a high altitude balloon. There the air is very thin. A fraction of one percent of the air at sea level. During the dive, the craft will accelerate to well over Mach 1 and less than Mach 2 and will need to be controllable by its normal control surfaces to pass as an aircraft. As the air thickens at low altitudes, the craft will slow and with the application of air brakes will slow and level off for normal flight to the ground.

The Technology

We will have a camera in the nose of the aircraft and it will transmit TV images to the pilot on the ground. Jason will be either in a darkened room with a monitor or wearing goggles allowing him to see the camera. This provides what is known as First-person Point of View (FPV). The aircrafts instruments will be overlaid on the video signal. This is known as “On Screen Display” or OSD. Below is a view typical of what will be seen by Jason as he lands the craft.

osdThe video signal must travel over 100kms to be assured of the craft being in the radius of the equipment. Similarly we must send commands to the control surfaces of the radio controlled aircraft. Again this must work at distance over 100kms. The craft has ailerons, elevators and rudder as well as airbreaks and other systems that need to be controlled. We will use a 10 channel system to ensure that we have full control of every aspect of the craft.

We will have to buy a $5,000 GPS unit capable of sampling at what is essentially the speed of a missile. These are highly restricted items, but essential. We will record the speed with both this unit and radar. The unit will record to an SD card and also send back telemetry every second. It is essential to knowing the speed during the flight rather than waiting until after the event. We will also need a radar responder to allow other aircraft and air traffic controllers to know where our craft is at any time.

The Big Event

We can expect global TV News coverage of the event and many records to be broken. The day will start by filling a large Zero Pressure Balloon like the one pictured below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe balloon will carry the aircrafy to over 40km where it will be released and go into a steep dive and break the sound barrier. As the air thickens, the speed will slow and the craft will be pulled out of the dive and levelled off to drop speed. The aircraft will eventually land and data and video records will be recovered. We will already know the top speed, but there is nothing like solid data rather than  radio telemetry that may miss the odd data packet.

There will be opportunities to attend, but it is likely to be in a rather remote part of the state. The flight will be broadcast over the Internet and the opportunity to track and follow the flight will be available to all. All up the opportunity to be involved is high and the science and inspiration will be out of this world. Project ThunderStruck is set to thrill.

Visit our website for more space and balloon stories.

We are bringing our site early in October.

Apollo Heritage – A GLXP Hangout

Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout - Apollo Heritage and the GLXPApollo 11 45th Anniversary Hangout – Apollo Heritage and the GLXP.

Well the Apollo Heritage Hangout event is over and I had a lot of fun with the interview or should I say “armchair chat”. It was a very comfortable discussion. I am excited to tell you that there is a video of the event. It was recorded and the link is below. I must say that I am very taken with Dr. Pamela L. Gay (the host) and her interview style. I was never left with a feeling of “what will happen next”.

I was on the Apollo Heritage Hangout with Derick Webber, one of the GLXP judges and an easy to get along with type of guy who was also around during the Apollo era. He is also Director, SpacePort Associates. Author of “The Wright Stuff: the Century of Effort Behind your Ticket to Space” and much more.

So without any more chatter, click on the link below and settle in with a drink and enjoy the fun.

Please connect with out team – Team Stellar:

About Robert Brand:

Works for; and shareholder in a Communications and Aerospace company called PlusComms:

Head of the Communications, Tracking and Data Division in Team Stellar.

Worked in Communications support for about 100 NASA and US military space mission and several ESA mission. Stationed at the Parkes Radio Telescope in comms support for the NASA Voyager flyby of Uranus and Neptune and ESA’s Giotto mission to Halleys Comet.

Robert regularly launches stratospheric balloons for both commercial work and scientific research. Some of the commercial flights are supporting space research for universities and private companies. The work is done through his company, PlusComms. He has launched 18 flights and recovered all 18 payloads. He will soon be building drones with supersonic capability (gravity assist).


Apollo 11 45th Interview – GLXP

Hangout 006 GLXP Apollo 11 45thRobert Brand is a Special Guest for Apollo 11 GLXP Hangout.

Not much to say, but to follow the link below and be part of the Apollo 11 special event for the Google Lunar X Prize Team Hangout. I am part of Team Stellar – one of the GLXP teams

Many of you will not know that I was one of the many OTC employees that worked on the Apollo 11 comms here in Sydney. I was 17 years old at the time doing work experience. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time when the regular staff needed help. OTC was Australia’s government run international carrier. It was merged with our national carrier when the country deregulated the telco sector in 1992.

I will be discussing my experiences wiring up the Apollo 11 gear in Sydney – not that this was an amazing event, but since I am part of a group building a mission to go to the moon with a Rover, it appears that I am about the only person in the GLXP with a connection to the Apollo 11 event. I have learned a lot from others in the old company where I worked and from personal research. Hopefully I will do an adequate job. I was 17 years old back on the day of the landing.

Note that although the poster states the time as 6PM PST, the time is actually daylight saving time 6PM PDT – That is 11am Sydney time.

I bumped into Buzz Aldrin 2 months ago when I was presenting a talk at Spacefest in Pasadena. I have learned a lot about the missions by talking with these guys.

Buzz Aldrin at Spacefest 2014

Buzz Aldrin at Spacefest 2014

Sydney video scan converter. Photo by Richard Holl left yo right: Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes scan converter at OTC Paddington following the mission

Sydney video scan converter. Photo by Richard Holl left to right: Ted Knotts, Dick Holl and Elmer Fredd standing in front of the Parkes scan converter at OTC Paddington following the mission

Team Stellar Balloon Flights

Team Stellar Balloons in Croatia

Here is a post straight from the Team Stellar news pages. I will have a lot more detail in a few posts soon. It was an incredible trip with really hard parameters. Jason (12) and myself went with Team Stellar’s CTO – Tim Blaxland. You can read directly this short post from Team Stellar’s website about the success and other news at:

Yes, we launched from the heart of Zagreb! I have never launched a balloon from the middle of a city before, nor in the harsh conditions we encountered. Success was pretty much guaranteed with our reliance on well-known science for the planning.

Stellar News

Balloon Stellar Stratosphere Update

During the last week, Team Stellar launched  two science balloons into the stratosphere, about 30 km above the Earth’s surface, to collect data for the purposes of diverse student-designed experiments of the competition participants.

We brought to Croatia three team members from Australia to help us with the launch and the recovery of the balloons. Robert Brand and his son Jason hold the world record with the perfect score of 16/16 successful launches, and recoveries. Their score is even better now, with two new successes. Tim Blaxland also came to help in organizing the launches.

The first balloon was launched on April 21. It was cloudy and it was raining, we were waiting for hours for a suitable moment to launch. After a few hours, we decided to go. The balloon achieved the maximum altitude was 109,500 ft (over 33 km). The recovery was very difficult, because the payload finished its fall on the top of a really high tree. After a lot of trouble, our guys somehow managed to take it down from the tree.

The second launch was done in somewhat better conditions. It was less cloudy and no rain. We launched the second group of student experiments. We also had an experiment with full HD, 1080p Wireless (WLAN) live stream from the stratosphere. The experiment was successful, and you could watch live stream on our web page. The Balloon reached the altitude of 30,862 m.

The recovery of the second balloon was very easy. The payload fell right in front of our chase team, on the flat land.

We are now returning the experiments to the teams, so that the students can see what their experiments have measured and what kind of data were collected in the stratosphere.


Researching Balloon Launches in a New Country

Croatia LandminesBalloon Launches in a New Country – How To…

In the next few weeks, Jason and I will head to Croatia to oversee the balloon project of Team Stellar. So far we have been working with the team from afar and good communications are essential. We have email, Skype, Dropbox and more, so communications are good. We have been working with time issues to make sure everything happens in a timely fashion – there is a country wide student competition at stake. The students and their mentors are working hard so everything has to go well.

Our biggest problems are ones that we do not have here in Australia. We are used to having a very big launch and recovery area in Australia with few trees and little chance of water. It has good tracking and good mobile data coverage.

Croatia? Well there are plenty of unknowns for both me and the rest of the team in Croatia. The requirements are to keep the balloon in Croatia. This is hard. It is a small country with an unusual shape. The useful West to East range is only about 300km and it is pretty tight too.

That is Croatia in the map top right. So what are all the red bits? Stuff that we have to avoid! Things that we are not used to in Australia. They are land mines. We cannot afford to have our payloads drop anywhere near them. These are left over from the wars in the area from 1991 to 1995. These mines are still very new and deadly.

So what else we will have to contend with? Snow, mountains, poor Internet coverage, pine forests, unknown APRS coverage to name a few.

We will have all the risky stuff covered including cut-down systems to keep the balloons from going too far. Our best weapon is research. Knowing what the upper winds are doing is key to having the best chance of keeping the balloon in the country. We have a few resources to consider. Some we have already told you about.

I will be using the Jet Stream weather links for Europe:

Another is the historic movement of the jet-stream – basically you can get a feel for what is coming

Finally some prediction software from HABHUB – this set up for our project and Zagreb, but you can adjust for your own needs.:!/uuid=ebb514c8730df4df256e57ea997cdd122c65a736


I am now keeping records for the Jet Stream in Croatia each day (I missed yesterday). This will show us the main issues with the winds and how they flow. We have already found major differences between Australia and Croatia with total reverses in the Jet Stream over long periods. Australia seems far more consistent, but Croatia is closer to the northern boundary of the system that determines the winds, compared to where I launch from in Australia.  Here in Australia we are further away from one of the jet Stream boundaries. I will post more on that soon.

Here are the records for three of the last four days. I will have a month of records to get to know the way this all works.

20140311 Jet Stream  20140311 HABHUB prediction - 30km


20140312 Jet Stream  20140312 HABHUB prediction - 30km


20140314 Jet Stream  20140314 HABHUB prediction - 30km


The Z shape is common the many flights with the change in wind direction as the balloon rises from the Jet STream to the Stratospheric wind. Once the balloon bursts, the payload goes back through the same winds and the same eind directions get duplicated. It comes down faster, so the tail is a little shorter.

The prediction of the 4th day is a very good on for an easy recovery. It stays well in Croatia and away from the mines and can be launched from Zagreb. Simply we would not launch from Zagreb as we have little control of range. I only use Zagreb as a reference to see where the balloon will end up and the conditions that control the wind directions.

Balloon Launches in a New Country can be a real problem – even across a big country. Take care and research things well.

Stellar Stratospheric Balloon HAB Workshops

Bojan Markičević and workshopsBalloon HAB Workshops Scheduled in Croatia

What does it take to ensure that a major project like Stellar’s Stratospheric Balloon project works? Simply, lots of work by lots of people.

In recent days we have been examining the payload weights and requirements. Each experiment is allowed 150g or mass on board the balloons. None the less some have dangerous aspects such as fluids or heat generation. We have to ensure that their placement within our payload containment allows them to have the right “view”, air flow or whatever they require.  We rely on strong equipment descriptions and we have provided a wealth of information about designing and building payload containers, etc.

None the less, the contestants in what is effectively a competition have never done this before and simply, they need more assistance. To meet these needs we have assembled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and our response. Stellar member Bojan Markičević will be traveling around Croatia and providing workshops for the various teams. The workshops have already commenced. The FAQ is below.

Download (PDF, 256KB)

Want to know more about this Stellar event?

Here are the details for our Balloon HAB Workshops – courtesy of Google translate:

Schedule creative Balloon HAB Workshops

Dear teams ,

Below is the schedule and locations of scientific and creative Balloon HAB Workshops. Workshops carried Bojan Markičević a period of 4-5 hours .

Also we want to remind you to forward information ( if possible , in English ) related to your experiments ( weight , volume , special handling ) to 10/03/2014 .
Please enclose as much information about your experiments , so that our technical team ( Robert Brand , Tim Blaxland and Vilko Klein ) could plan a schedule of cargo .

Workshop schedule :

10.3 . ( M ) – Sisak , location : Technical School Sisak , time : 10:00 / / Teams : Stream instantly impulse , Gorilaz , SOLAR TEAM

11.3 . ( T ) – Kutina , location : technical schools Kutina , time : 09:30 / / Teams : GRAVITY , SPACE JET

13.3 . ( Thu ) – Zagreb , location : High school Luciano Laurana , Time : 11:00 / / Teams : ASTRONITHYUS , Suave , TIM HELIOS , CROSTRATOS
14.3 . ( Five ) – Zagreb , location : First Technical School , Time : 11:00 / / Teams : X – TESLA , FAUST TEAM

18.3 . ( T ) – Metkovic , location : High school Metkovic , Time : 15:00 / / Teams : BHIS PRISM SPECTRUM

19.3 . ( W ) – Zadar , location : Vocational School Vice Vlatković Time : 13:00 / / Team : EIGHTBIT

20.3 . ( Fri) – Rijeka , location : Elektorindustrijska and crafts school in Rijeka , time : 10:00 / / Teams : ELECTRIC DREAMS , gymnasium Pula ( Pula )
24.3 . ( M ) – Osijek , location : Electrical Engineering and Traffic School Osijek , time : 13:30 / / THE Renewables , DEA

25.3 . ( T ) – Daruvar Location: Technical School Daruvar , time : 11:00 / / CRANES , Bjelovar STELLAR LABARATORY ( Bjelovar )

See you soon !


Jason (11 y/o) to Recover Balloons in Croatia

20130414 Jason Brand on the Fuzzy Logic Science ShowAustralian Student Recover Balloons in Croatia

Okay, I’ll be traveling with him to Croatia, but since there are two separate balloons to track and recover on two days, Jason will be well and truly tracking without my help and in a foreign country. He will have the team Stellar guys with him, but he will be doing the tracking and navigation for his vehicle. Stellar is a Team in the Google Lunar X Prize event. Have a look on Wiki to find out more.

jason is an 11 year old student in year 7 at Sydney Secondary College, Balmain Campus. At age 9 he obtained his Amateur Radio License (Foundation). We has some programing experience and builds and repairs helicopters and tricopters. He has helped track and recover 16 successful High Altitude Balloons and together Jason and I have the world’s highest recovery rate – 100% over an enormous number of missions.

A quick snapshot of the whole event:

We travel to Croatia at the start of the NSW school holidays. They are two weeks long. Jason and I will probably be traveling with fellow Team Stellar member Tim Blaxland. Tim is our team’s chief of UpLift-2Navigation. I look after the Team’s Communications, Tracking and Data. Jason is the Australian Student Representative and he is also my son.

Jason will be taking part in the planning phases of the mission and will have a big role in talking to the press and to school students. He will be bringing his newly built tricopter with him and he will be showing students what they can do with a little help. he will be talking about High Altitude Balloons (HAB) and the science of the troposphere and the stratosphere.

We will launch over two days and thus need to track 4 balloons – mostly with students experiments.  We have done our best to ensure success of Stellar’s “Balloon Stratosphere“.

Follow up interviews and more student mentoring and sessions.

Return to Sydney.

Much of this trip will be assisting the Croatian members of Team Stellar to get comfortable with HAB missions. Jason and I hope that we can pass on our expertise to the Croatian members.

Tim Blaxland already has some experience helping with a flight in NSW with us. That flight achieved nearly 37km altitude. We recovered the payload in a freshly cut wheat field a few weeks back.

More updates with travel and tracking information shortly. The picture below is Jason, Tim and I with some others preparing the recent balloon for flight. it is a 1.2kg balloon. Stellar’s balloons will be 3kg! That is the view from the payload camera.



Preparing Your Balloon Payload

Stellar Balloon flight to the stratosphere in CroatiaPacking a High Altitude Balloon Payload

Below is a set of instructions I used to help some teams launch their balloon payloads in our upcoming HAB flights in Croatia. You might like to consider them a guideline to how you can pack a payload in light weight material for your flight. Of course you can use a Styrofoam box, but that is a bit of an overkill in the world of light weight  payloads.

If this helps, then please use the ideas and send us a link on your web page:

The Instructions:

Creating your experiment is the hard part, but finding something to put it in can be very difficult too. I have included some idea here that should help. Firstly, let me say congratulations in getting this far. It is great to see so many ready worthy experiments going into the stratosphere.

Let me start this paper by explaining what the out package is meant to do. The balloon will leave the ground and quickly rise in to the upper areas of the troposphere . Here is where jet aircraft fly and if you have ever flown and seen the outside temperature, displayed on the navigation screen, you will know it can get to around -60 C. Hopefully we will only have temperatures of around -50 C. By the time we reach 7km, there is more mass atmosphere below us than above us. In fact way more. This means that the atmospheric pressure is getting very low. At about 20km altitude, we will pass from the troposphere and into the small layer known as the tropopause. Look that up!

The stratosphere is next and it is very warm compared to the temperatures in the jet stream. It may reach -20C or in some places and on some occasions could reach an amazing 5 C. Since the balloon flies with the wind, there is very little force on the balloon during its flight. Even when the balloon explodes, the fall has little impact on the experiments. It is briefly like the “weightlessness” of space. A light foam package may reach speeds of 160kph in the thin air. As the air thickens the parachute slows the payload and we should have a light impact of only around 5m/s or 18kph. Finally what if it lands in water?

So, the main things that we need to combat are:

  • Pressure
  • Temperature
  • Weight
  • Landing impact
  • Water

A note on batteries. Very cold conditions will cause problems for some types of batteries. Alkaline batteries can be a big problem aand can fail during the flight. We recommend Lithium batteries as these resist the cold very well. They also last about 4 times longer than Alkaline batteries.

Weight is simple, each experiment is meant to weigh only 150 grams, including the packaging, so we are looking for very strong light weight packaging that will fit the size of our payload.

Pressure is less of a problem on the most part. Most things survive pressures close the extremely low pressures of space. We will expect about 1% of the pressure seen at sea level. Pressure does however make it hard to waterproof a payload. Waterproofing usually means sealing things up. That unfortunately will probably create an explosive effect on a large mass of air in any packaging.

Temperature of the payload – or cooling! Heat will leave your experiment quickly and freezing temperatures will probably be experienced at about 3,000m. from then on, your experiment will not return to temperatures above freezing until back on the ground. Check your battery specifications and we have some things that we can do to limit the effects on the battery. More on that later.

Landing Impact is not high. It is easy to cushion an impact of that size. You can run as as fast as that for a short time. The fastest human foot speed on record is 44.72 km/h. The cover still needs to cushion the impact.

Water. We hope to ensure that if it lands in water, we can still recover the experiments. Nothing will keep water out, unless you can make sure that there is no air in the packaging. Then it can be sealed totally. This will be difficult.

Suggestion 1 – Bubble Wrap

Sounds crazy, but bubble wrap can survive in space without the bubbles exploding. It achieves all of the objectives and can even keep water out. it is a good thermal insulator as it has trapped air, it is very light and can cushion impacts as well as floating. It is what I like to use if possible.  The electronics for UpLift 16 was wrapped in Bubble Wrap. You can see the wires  coming out of the package.

In the above picture, the three wires on the right terminate in a black temperature sensor for the outside air. By keeping it in the shade just beneath the bubble wrap, I was able to measure the temperature of the atmosphere at different altitudes. After landing, it was over 2 weeks before we went to recover the payload and the electronics were intact. In fact we did not even use a parachute. The bubble wrap provided the cushioning for a fall from the stratosphere. It also cause some air braking, slowing the fall. Since the battery was next it the electronics – separated by one layer of insulation tape, the warmth of the payload and the warmth of the battery are used to keep both as warm as possible by each adding to the internal heat. The bubble wrap simply slows the loss of heat.

The one thing to remember when using it is to wrap it three times. Also remember that the bubbles will expand and will apply some pressure to the payload unless loosely wrapped. It should be sealed with a light weight tape.


Suggestion 2 – Food container

Ever had takeaway food in a plastic container? These are very light and strong. If they land hard, they may crack, but that is about it. They are also rather air tight at time. If using these and you do not cut holes for sensors, cameras, wires, etc please remember to add a small hole to allow the air to exit and enter so that it does not blow the lid off the container or crush it.  The pin hole will not let in too much water if it lands in a lake, so it will float. You may still need some bubble wrap around the outside, but this is still very light weight. The ones pictured below weigh 33 grams

 Takeaway Food Container


Suggestion 3 – Paper Towel Roll

These are long and strong as well as light weight. Simply they work well. They are also very light weight – 10 grams. You can tape the ends for both securing the payload and increasing the strength. It is not water resistant, but there is almost no way of protecting your payload for the small possibility the payload landing in water. You can carefully cut the roll to form a smaller holder and lower weight.


Suggestion 4 – Toilet Rolls – Clean and Unused!

Make sure that the roll has not been used in the toilet please! Remove the paper and you will find a short roll about half the size of the paper towel roll weighing about 5 grams. Again, taping the ends will help in securing you payload and increasing strength.

Suggestion 5 – Kitchen and other containers

Look around the kitchen, the bathroom and almost anywhere in your office or home there are a variety of containers. Here are two more:

IMG_1947 IMG_1948

One is a cotton bud container weighing 20 grams – small but very strong. The other is a fruit container without a lid. You can cover the top with a rectangle of thin plastic – ensure air can escape. The cotton bud container weighs 20 grams and the fruit container weighs also weighs 20 grams but is very large in comparison.

Electrical Connections

It is important to ensure a secure electrical connection if using electronics. We suggest that all connections be soldered and also make sure that switches are not easily “knocked” to the off position. This can be easily achieved by cutting the top off a lever type switch – even a tiny ones. This means less of the lever to get in the way as well as less leverage. Similarly there are other switches such as slide switches. These can be accidentally knocked too. You can cut these down too. We can use a screwdriver to slide the switch as directed in your instructions. You can also go to your electronics shop and get a switch that may need a screwdriver to operate.

We can also suggest that you tape the switch to the “on” position so that it cannot be accidentally switched off if bumped during packing or during flight.

Alternatively, use a Plug and socket. these are robust. Below is a picture of a battery pack with a connector ready to be plugged into the payload.


These are small and very light weigh.

Final Tips

A few final tips:

  • Write your full details on a label on the payload.
  • Use a waterproof pen on the container.
  • We suggest that you use Lithium batteries and thermal insulation to keep your batteries (and possibly the payload) from freezing.
  • Have fun creating your experiment.
  • Stand back – we are doing science! 

As I said at the start, these are a few ideas for students participating in Team Stellar’s Stratospheric Balloon flight / Balon Stratosfera. I hope that some of this helps with your own balloon projects.


The Moon Landing and Educational Activities – Team Stellar

Educational Activities – Team Stellar

I was part of a Croatian press conference via Skype in December. It was an unusual feeling talking to an audience that you could not see or hear. The press conference was for Team Stellar and the upcoming balloon flight in Croatia. Jason and I are going to oversee the balloon flight and recovery of the payload.

This is from the Team Stellar blogsite. The original link is here:

You really need to read this and other stories on the Team Stellar Blog:

Press conference 

This was a great month for space exploration . We all witnessed the Chinese Chang 3 having landed softly on the Moon, and Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover is on its surface now. China has become the 3rd country in the world to put the robotic vehicle on the moon.

It is the first soft-landing on the moon by any spacecraft in 37 years. And it was especially interesting for us, all of the Google Lunar XPRIZE teams in the competition, because we are trying to do the same. There is only one small difference: we are doing it without the resources of the world economic superpower. Regardless, we strive to reduce the cost of the mission, we want to optimize each and every one of its segments, and that is our goal.

We want to get to the Moon as cheaply and as effectively as possible. We want to reduce all cost and make our technology commercially usable for the future.

Our COO Theo Valich giving interview for the television

Also, we held a press conference in Zagreb, Croatia to promote our educational outreach program, Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere. It was a great success. We want to spark interest of high school students in science and space exploration.  You can find out more on the subject on our webpage ,or on our social media pages and channels.

Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere – Croatia

Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere to Launch in Croatia in April

Jason and I are headed to oversee the launch of this flight in Croatia. It will be in the NSW School Holidays.

This is from the Team Stellar blogsite. The original link is here:

You really need to read this and other stories on the Team Stellar Blog:

Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere is our first serious educational program. That is why we have invested so much enthusiasm in its development. After a few months of preparations, uncountable work hours, eight creative workshops with over 130 participants, and many miles on the road, it finally starts. You can learn more about Balloon Stellar – Stratosphere competition here.

Group photo after the workshop in Metković, Croatia

Following the example of Google Lunar XPRIZE, we decided to offer a cash prizes to the most successful teams. We announced our competition everywhere and in every possible way.

We gave them an opportunity, and also the motivation.

We have prepared a special micro-site for the competition, we held a press conference, we were guests on TV on several occasions, and we were interviewed for the newspapers. Our social media pages and channels were constantly buzzing on the subject.

And now, all of our hopes have finally come true.  We have 21 teams in the competition! It is a great number of the teams, if you know that Croatia has the population of less than 4.5 mil. inhabitants.

We are more than happy with that number, but we are also very happy with the ideas for the experiments from high school teams.

You will hear more about the students’ experiments latter, but, in this post, I want to say something about creative workshops we have organized for the interested students.

The physicist Bojan Markičević, educational expert and communicator of science, was just the right person to conduct these workshops. Bojan has ten years of international experience in educational activities. He has a somewhat unconventional approach to knowledge transfer in relation to the classical education, especially in Croatia.

Bojan Markičević

Bojan traveled for over 2500 kilometers in just two weeks, in order to reach all of the teams (high school students) and encourage them to enter the competition.

He did not want to impose some ideas for the experiments or tell them what and how to do  them. The main goal of his creative workshops was to awaken their interest in science, and to prepare them for teamwork. Bojan has developed a series of activities for the 4-hour workshops which are interesting, refreshing and mind opening.

One of the activities during the creative workshop

He wants to include all of the participants in the conversation  to freely express their minds and to defend their opinions in a discussions, without any fear and reservations.

After the workshop, Bojan usually asks students to evaluate the workshop. They write their opinions about the workshop on the coloured papers, and stick them to the panel.


The high school students’ messages are clear, they find the workshops interesting, challenging, and they think that it helped them a lot to find a new perspective on the world around them. We are also hoping that Bojan`s workshops helped them learn the most important thing in science: how to ask the right question. When you learn how to formulate your question, only then you can conduct an experiment and find the right answer. Asking questions and finding answers, science is all about that.

Two days ago, we have published the names of the teams which entered the competition, and we wish all of them the best luck. Our balloons will fly the high school experiments this spring. Stay tuned.

Building a Tricopter

IMG_1883Jason Shows his Completed Tricopter – Phase 1.

As part of our work in both doing things in the space sector or our HAB (High Altitude Balloon) flights, we have always needed video from overhead. Building this tricopter is our way of achieving this. Tricopters are stable platforms for video cameras if built right.

This is Jason’s project. He is 11 years old and in Year 7. He has a vast knowledge on flight and also has a model aeroplane and a few small toy helicopters. This is nothing like that. This is a workhorse for our aerospace projects and to monitor details on the ground when we are preparing for a balloon flight or other project. Eventually we expect that we will be able to park the tricopter in the air and have it video the ground without movement in the sky and without anyone having to control it. We will also have point of view screens for the pilot radioing back the front image from an on-board camera. This will be overlaid with instrumentation to help guide the pilot.

If you would like to build such a craft, we will be having a full build video and information. One thing that surprised me was that the craft was very quiet. We can fly it in our yard without any complaints from neighbours.

Before we show you how to get involved, I will show a couple of videos so that you can judge for yourselves. The fully flying tricopter costs about US$300 and the controller and transmitter costs about US$50. Not a bad price for a workhorse like this. Please note that the basic unit does not have a camera. We have added a GoPro in the unit for testing, but we will be building a proper camera mount in later phases of this project. In fact the camera mount will have head tracking. You can look down, up, even left and right to some degree.

Below is our first test flight in our yard. It flew straight away. That was yesterday.

Today we have made it very stable and very manageable. It has been raining so little chance to refine the machine, but unit is looking great. Below is a bit today’s flights.

We will be taking this tricopter to Croatia to assist with Team Stellar’s balloon flights, taking students experiments into the stratosphere. We will have to have batteries shipped ahead of our arrival as we will not be allowed to transport these batteries with us.


Stellar Balloon Mission Gaining Momentum

UpLift-1 Securing the neck and the payloadStellar Balloon – Stratosphere

This is the background detail on the Team Stellar High Altitude Balloon mission that Jason and I are flying to Croatia to assist. The article below is from the Team Stellar website:

Team Stellar is developing a project competition “STELLAR BALLOON – STRATOSPHERE”, open to teams from all interested high schools throughout Croatia.

Team Stellar will launch a science balloon into the stratosphere, about 30 km above the Earth’s surface, to collect data for the purposes of diverse student-designed experiments of the competition participants.

Through this innovative project, high-school students are given the opportunity to work with scientists and engineers from Team Stellar and experience an authentic flight mission from the start to the finish firsthand, while learning practical math, science and engineering skills, among others.


Stellar Balloon flight to the stratosphere in Croatia• stimulate the students’ interest in science and technology

• challenge their imaginative thinking and creativity

• support educational needs of gifted children

• encourage inter-institutional cooperation

• develop teamwork skills

• create a “healthy” environment and interest to improve the educational system and free-time activities

• raise awareness about the natural phenomena and ecological values of the planet Earth


There is no limit to the number of teams that can apply and every high school in Croatia can participate.

In order to join the competition, the applicants must submit an official proposal containing all the necessary documentation, including a clear description of the experiment, scientific objectives, technical plan, team organization, etc. A wide variety of topics may be pursued, including science and weather observations, remote sensing and image processing, engineering demonstrations, electronics, robotics and communications, etc.

Team Stellar and the committee members will select the first 20-50 candidates to participate in the balloon launch.

The selection will be made based on the originality of the idea and the quality of the student-designed experiments.

The schools are responsible for the funding of their teams’ experiments. Team Stellar will provide the necessary resources for the balloon [payload] design.


Team Stellar will award the best three experiments.

Team Stellar will uplift the balloon [payload], track it, collect it upon landing, and return the payloads comprising of various experiments, planned by the students, to the participating teams for further analysis of the gathered data.

Each team is obligated to submit a final report, including the experiment description and the results, along with the entire work process within the team. All the participating high-school teams will have access to the complete results of the experiments.

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.

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt2

13th ASSC Uni NSWTriple Play in the Space Sector

by Robert Brand

As I mentioned in the last post, I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here: Click to Download

Download (PDF, 1.4MB)

13th Australian Space Science Conference Pt1

13th ASSC Uni NSWSpace Education

by Robert Brand

I was fortunate to present at the 13th Australian Space Science Conference at Sydney University a little over a week ago. The only unfortunate thing was a mix-up by yours truly and I ended up there on the wrong day. I was meant to be delivering a talk on “Triple Play in the Space Sector” and poor Alice Gorman, who was hosting the panel, was asking if I had turned up. My biggest apologies ever Alice!

I did however get a chance to present in the education stream and I am including this presentation here. My son Jason came along to help me as it was school holidays. Luckily every talk was about some of the work that he does with me, so it was pretty interesting most of the time.

Below is the PDF version of my PowerPoint presentation. It is interesting to note that we are doing so much that I can easily put together a complete presentation during a few other people’s talks. As you can see I gave my WotzUp website a plug!

You can download it here:  Click to Download

Download (PDF, 3.5MB)

Balon Stellar Stratosfera 30Km

Stellar Balloon flight to the stratosphere in CroatiaJason & Robert to Fly Balloons (HAB) in Croatia.

by Robert Brand

As many will know, I am the Director of Spacecraft Communications, Navigation and Data for Team Stellar and Jason is Stellar’s Australian Student Representative.

Jason and I also hold a world record for launching and recovering High Altitude Balloons (HABs). We have launched and recovered 16 so far and you can’t get better than 100% success. Mind you, much of that is attributed to us researching and finding a fantastic launch and recovery area with HAM radio APRS coverage (one of our tracking systems), flat and clear land with little water and good mobile telephone coverage and good access roads to farming and grazing land.

Croatia is a very different place. Our Team Stellar Croatian associates have told us that part of our recovery team will be Aplinists, capable of hiking in snow and ice to recover any balloon that lands high up on a mountain!

So why is Stellar launching these flights?


Balon Stellar Stratosfera 30Km

Basically we will be carrying experiments from schools all over Croatia. They will go into the stratosphere and after recovery they will be returned to the schools for analysis and of course we expect them to publish the results.

More on this soon.

This is just one of several activities being undertaken by Team Stellar in the name of STEM Education – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. Jason is 11 years old and will just turn 12 when we assist with this flight and will have just completed his first term in high school (year 7). He will be attending Sydney Secondary College – Balmain Campus just as his two older sisters did.

These will be larger balloons that will be needed to lift heavy payloads and to get them into the stratosphere before they explode and return to earth. We also expect to have cut-down ability to command the payload to release from the balloon and return to earth.

We will let you know more as we prepare for the flights in 6 months’ time. You can read more here later and more at:

That is Jason and I celebrating with a soft drink after the successful recovery of UpLift-1, our first balloon mission in December 2011. Jason does the tracking, radio systems and navigation – I just do the driving.
Jason and Robert Brand Recover UpLift-1

Stellar Launch Rocket

WotzUp Update (Archives)

Stellar Launch RocketWotzUp Update

*** Retrieved from Archives ***

Published March 25th 2013

Team Stellar

It is full steam ahead with a range of activities. The biggest one of all is the risk assessment of the navigation systems and choosing the system that best fits the mission. As for that activity, usually a risk assessment is done of a mission plan, we are changing that to be the other way around – developing a mission plan after we chose the navigation systems. Having said that we would like to land somewhere historic to be able to visit some amazing leftover systems like Apollo sites or other landers.

We do have one favoured site where man walked on the moon, but we are yet to see if the navigation capability supports the mission. NASA have a “No Go” zone around some of these sites and also do not want rocket exhaust too close to their site so it will be a long haul for our little rover if we do visit.

As well as the everyday navigation available to anyone, I am looking at developing my own ideas about a novel system to give precise distance to our landing site and an exact speed. This will enable us to be very efficient with fuel. It will be interesting to see if we can construct a system to achieve this and thus need a very good secondary system. More later…

Some of my radio broadcast have focused on Team Stellar. Stay tuned.


Seems that our KickSat will be launched later this year. Some good news on that front and I have a prototype of what will fly – lots of updates soon.

Better still I have been taking pictures from the ISS with EarthKAM – WOW. Lots of photos of Australia and if you students in high school can get your science teacher across this, you too can take your very own ISS photos. Read more below.


ISS EarthKam Coopers CreekDid you know that there is a 12 MegaPixel camera on the ISS that students can control and snap photos from space? All you need to do is get your science teacher to sign up to the site and get an allocation of photos for students to take pictures of almost anywhere on Earth. More in a future article, but to get you going, here is a photo taken by my good friend David Galea (a Melbourne Science teacher) of the Exmouth area in Australia.

Note I have not checked whether these photos are north up or North down and sorry, but I don’t have the time.

and below another one of David’s photos of the Kakadu Area

Like around New Orleans in the US, you can see how sediment from this river has extended the river mouth out to sea.
In the News

Linda mottramLinda Mottram Sydney ABC 702 Mornings

It seems that Australia’s new space policy about to be tabled may not suit everyone and especially entrepreneurs like me. I personally want to see more funds for space and to make sure our brilliant minds graduating from university have somewhere in this country to actually work and not be lost to other countries.

Because of that I have engaged with several groups and I am hoping that we can develop a common narrative so that the general public and the media will know our desires and capabilities in the space sector.

I have been on many programs, but two in particular in Australia – One in Melbourne with a panel to discuss the issues and one on ABC radio in Sydney where I discuss the issues and also Team Stellar. Links to those broadcasts shortly.

On another note I made it into a Croatian TV show all about Team Stellar!! My piece was videoed in Abu Dhabi during the first Team get-together in December last year.

Public Speaking

I start professional Public Speaking gigs soon and it will be all about SPACE! For the moment I will be with Ovations exclusively, but they have been slow to kick off. I will still do free talks for universities and other deserving groups for free, but I am now in an interesting area.

I have a long history supporting space missions starting at the age of 17 when I wired up some of the Apollo 11 video and switching equipment in Sydney Australia back in June 1969. I supported most NASA missions from then to 1986 and that included communications support for NASA’s Apollo, Shuttle, Voyager and other missions. Also ESA’s Giotto Mission to Halleys Comet.

But the real interesting stuff is that I am involved in current space missions. Team Stellar’s lunar mission within the next 2 years and the UK’s Median experiment scheduled to touch down on Mars in 2020 (lots of green lights to get past) plus all the other great space stuff like EarthKAm and KickSat

If you want to get me to speak at your event go over here and you can book me:

I can promise you lots of great photos, the odd video and an amazing tale of being at the heart of so many incredible projects. I am also very animated. Don’t expect me to stay still when I get so excited about the subject. I also have a great tale about changing careers from Telecommunications to Aerospace!
UpLift Videos

I have completed a number of UpLift flights that were commercial. Since our first flight in December 2012, we completed 14 flights and 13 were commercial. We recovered all 14 payloads for 100% success rate. We are also available for commercial payloads with prices starting at $5,000.

Here is one video for a frozen Yoghurt company – we froze the yoghurt in the clouds!!

HAB / Weather Balloons

We sold the 20 x 350g weather balloons that I bought in November last year. They sold out within a month! I have tried to get more balloons, but no luck.

Andrea Guzmán

Just got a Skype message from Andrea Guzmán from Columbia. I encouraged her to not only follow here dreams but to take action. I interviewed her recently and she had done so well. Now she seems to have even done better and so fast. This interview from June 2011.

Andrea Guzmán: Hey Robert. Long time no talk to you. Hope you’re Okay. Let me tell you I’ve done very interesting stuff so lately. I earned an internship in Mexico, I was there a whole month working at the 1meter Telescope.
Robert Brand: Wow – great work!
Andrea Guzmán: Now, im working with the second colombian satellite and well, everything is going just great
Robert Brand: Living the dream !!!
Andrea Guzmán: just wanted to let you know, as you have been also my mentor 🙂
Robert Brand: It is one thing to Dream, it is another to make it happen! One day we will meet!
Andrea Guzmán: I was actually applying for a workshop in satellites in Australia. Let’s wait and I’m sure we will meet someday.
Robert Brand: That will be fun. Lots to see if you are here!
Andrea Guzmán: sooo… thanks a lot to have confidence in me, without even knowing who I was
Robert Brand: It is easy to see who will make and who will not!
Andrea Guzmán: Thanks Robert 🙂

Wow! Things seem to be going great for Andrea and I want to remind everyone that you HAVE TO TAKE ACTION and not just dream. I encouraged Andrea to follow her dreams with action and she would have done this without my help, I am sure! It is, none the less, a great example of success through hard work.