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October 30, 2012

Our Kickstarter project may be getting simpler.  This project will focus on a reusable rocket plane based on our previous successful flights.  We will use off the shelf components to build a small-scale demonstration vehicle.  Future development and refinement will lead to a more powerful version at the same scale.

Since this is flying as a model airplane, the speed and altitude will be limited.  Our aims are not.  We are targeting ducted fan motors for now to demonstrate staging and low-speed flight.  However the molds may be used for another version with more capabilities.  To prepare for those higher goals this design will incorporate features to provide for growth.  I have to consider the needs of the next generation designs at this stage.

The feasibility studies being developed now look good, but they are largely just art initially.  We need to obtain the proper components and get the size and mass of each to firm up the design.  Before packaging the electric motors I am proposing space and dimensions to accommodate the evolution to higher power.  These designs reflect the future we will reach by faith.

The past successes are the foundation for a new design.  The lifting body airfoil is identical to our earlier flight vehicle.  Small changes to control surfaces are experimental so we will have another learning step.  The crew cabin is more conventional to space shuttle and airliner practices.  The old designs evolved from CAD images to flight hardware, as will these designs as well.

The new design has been designed and studied at the same scale as the earlier design, and can be produced for electric power at that size.


The first prototype was overweight and still made a good flight, so we will learn more now from a full-scale model.  So we are designing the next vehicle in a new size, but with similar features.

At least this will be less like building a ship in a bottle; we can get our hands into the tight places now!

If the working space is bigger, the design problems will be too.  Especially if we are to anticipate the needs of an evolved design during this preliminary stage.  As such the advanced designs are in a soft line study now.  The early models will leave room for turbine and rocket propulsion, and much analysis and refinement will need to follow.

Again, this is a feasibility study, NOT a final design.  Already I am finding it hard to make servos and other components fit into even this big bird!  The model builder will go through fixing mistakes, and engineering analysis will shape and shave everything again.  Engineering is all about change.  Dan Raymer suggests in his aircraft design textbook that we NOT fall in love with our CAD images!  But here is the dream bird:

Initially this illustrates installation of turbines rated to 20,000 feet operation.  Two HyperTek 75 mm rockets are illustrated on the booster with potential for 350 lbs thrust each.  The upper stage illustrates three 98 mm Hypertek chambers with plumbing to oxidizer tanks as needed.  They deliver 300-400 lbs thrust each.  The first stage is projected to weigh in at under 300lbs, and the second under 100lbs at takeoff.  So who does rocket science?  Will this get us any interesting data in its test flight?

There are some big gaps here.  A model airplane at 400 feet is not so impressive except to validate the potential of staging.  A reusable sounding rocket needs expensive engineering and systems.  Our hope is that the investor interest will grow along with the steps of the project.  Some of you may remember my presentation at Space Access 2011 and be warned of what is coming next; my prototype progression.

A model airplane validates a reusable sounding rocket, which suggests a small satellite launcher.  In time the manned version becomes the space shuttle of the future.  We are building the Highly Optimistic Prototype (HOP), the Scaled Kind of Intermediate Prototype (SKIP), the Junior Unmanned Mission Prototype (JUMP) to validate the Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype (LEAP).  We are only a HOP, SKIP, and a JUMP away from one giant LEAP for really BAD acronyms!



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