OK we are starting to overhaul X-Plane.com and cleaning out some of my old left-over posts there, but some of this stuff is a little bit too fun to delete forever. SOOO, as a tiny little blast from the past, I move an old post from X-Plane.com to my blog simply so it is not lost forever when we update X-Plane.com!
MY MISSION: TO PUT AN AUTONOMOUS GLIDER ON TOP OF A ROCKET, BLAST THE ROCKET TO HIGH ALTITUDE, AND HAVE THE GLIDER USE A PRIMITIVE ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE TO GLIDE BACK DOWN TO THE LAUNCH SITE.
MY GOAL IS TO DEMONSTRATE, ON A MODEL SCALE, THE SYSTEM THAT I BELIEVE SHOULD REPLACE THE SPACE SHUTTLE.
STEP 1 COMPLETE: DECIDE MORE OR LESS WHAT THIS THING WILL LOOK LIKE:
OK we lost the Challenger because the fuel tank was sitting BESIDE the SRBs, so when the SRBs leaked, the tank blew up. As well, the Orbiter was destroyed since it was BESIDE the tank and fully exposed to the blast! Stacking all this stuff vertically would solve these problems.
We lost the Columbia because ice came off the External tank and tweaked the tiles. If the Orbiter sat on TOP of the tank this would not happen.
The shuttle was big and expensive because it was built to be big enough to carry satellites UP AND BACK DOWN AGAIN! Well, there is no need to carry satellites DOWN! They only have to get carried UP!!! If the payload was just stacked on top of the booster, and the Orbiter was a very small glider on top of that, then the Orbiter would only have to be big enough to hold 6 people… about the size of a Citation Jet! This craft would be many times smaller than the Space Shuttle and still do about the same job!
Here is what it would look like, in pictures I clearly took from the Ares project:
Note the very small glider perched on top. Since the glider would be just big enough to carry 6 people (about the size of a Citation Jet or maybe the front half of a Canadair Regional Jet), it would get 6 people to orbit with a minimum of waste, since it would not have to carry the storage capacity to lug payload around… the glider sits on TOP of the payload! No ice will shed onto the Orbiter from the fuel tanks, and the Orbiter MIGHT be able to withstand the detonation of the main tank, perhaps!
OK now here is my first flying model, the Oz-1:
OK now you are laughing at me but I don’t care! Every journey begins with a first step, and you see my first step above!
OK here I am about getting ready to launch the Oz-1, which would sort of splin out of control from the wings on the glider de-stabilizing the rocket:
…and here I am in the fields looking for the glider after a flight! Dude, that thing is GONE!
Well, it sure as hell WORKED if the glider glided so far I can’t FIND the thing!
Next up: A tracking device for the glider.
Then a tracking device for the booster.
Then an autonomous autopilot to fly the glider back down under control.
Then a switch from cardboard to carbon-fiber construction to hold bigger engines and gliders
Then level-1 rocket certification to go to even bigger engines.
Then level-2 rocket certification to go to even bigger engines.
Then level-3 rocket certification to go to even bigger engines.
Then a construction methodology for the rocket and the booster to let them survive the rarefied air and longer flights of high altitude.
I will hit 50,000 feet and Mach-1 with this thing by the end of 2012!
And for 2013: The sky is NOT the limit… we are going way BEYOND the sky!
OK NEXT STEP ACHIEVED: HAM RADIO LICENSE
All right I just got my HAM radio license! Here is why I need this: The really good telemetry transmitters that send out the rocket’s speed and GPS location send that data out by FM radio! The rocket is really a rapidly-moving HAM radio station! This way you can see where your rocket is and what it is doing during launch even if you are in the middle of nowhere with no cell-phone service. A trick to these transmitters, though, is that they require a HAM radio operators license to legally use… so I got one! Here is you do it: You download a free study guide that lists a few hundred things to know about HAM radios. (What is a transistor? What is a capacitor? What is an amp? How far can radio waves go? Under what circumstances? What can you broadcast on a HAM radio?) and once you read that, you go to a public library with $15 in your pocket, give it to some guys there, and thy give you a test with 35 of those questions on it. Many of the multiple-choice test question take the form of a headline from FARK.com (“If your HAM radio is interfering with a neighbor’s TV, do you (a) Check your radio’s frequency-usage or (b) Tell him you are entitled by the FCC to broadcast at any frequency you like?”)
Anyhoo, with one night of study and an 85% score (passing) my HAM call-sign will show up shortly in the FCC registry, allowing me to buy the really cool rocket-tracking transmitters. In fact, the transmitter will broadcast right to my laptop, letting me see the launch numbers in real-time, and the location all the way down so I can find the rocket and glider after touch-down! Check it out here: http://www.apogeerockets.com/Altus_Metrum_GPS.asp
OK NEXT STEP STARTED: LEARN HOW TO FLY R/C PLANES!
The glider that sits on top of the rocket will initially be an RC plane (whose RC system will shortly be replaced by an artificial intelligence that will bring the glider back to earth right at the launch site), so I also need to know how to fly R/C planes to succeed in this mission. SOOOOOOOOOO, it was off to an RC field to see what I could learn!
AWESOME! A friend of mine let me fly this amazing little bird that he built… a really sweet electrical flyer with REALLY nice handling qualities, just the right amount of power for really good performance, and nice low-speed flying abilities as well. This is the just a really, really, really nice all-around airplane. It was a REAL pleasure to fly this snappy little bird.
Then, once done with the traditional R/C flying, it was time to try something a little different… those are NOT sunglasses I am wearing.. those VIRTUAL REALITY GOGGLES!
Below, I am flying an airplane with a tiny video camera mounted on it’s nose, and a transmitter that sends the camera image to the ground, and into the virtual-reality goggles I am wearing! So, flying this RC model was like flying a real airplane! In the low fly-bys, I could see myself sitting there flying the airplane! A REAL out-of-body experience! HAR!
Now, you might not believe me but I SWEAR it is true: There was a curious HAWK circling overhead, and he came over and approached the airplane in flight! We turned the airplane towards the Hawk (a small, rear-mounted propeller, so no chance to injure the large, wonderful bird) and started to chase the Hawk! The Hawk, seeing the aggressiveness in the load model airplane of similar size, turned tail and flew away! But we chased him for a few moments with the airplane, using the virtual-reality goggles so that I felt like I was right up there in the sky with him! I could see his individual feathers right in front of me as he flapped and turned away from me as I flew my little video camera right up to him! I could only chase him for a few moments because I had to be sure to not let the airplane out of transmitter range, but for those moments it was just like BEING a bird! MUCH more so than anything I have ever gotten in flying a real airplane, because a real airplane is not on the scale and speed of birds… but this little RC plane was an even match for the Hawk in size and speed! And I could get close enough to see the individual feathers on his wing as he flapped and turned away from me! It was really like being a bird in the sky.
OK I will post the next steps here as I take them! By the time this HTML file is at an end, I expect to have a rocket pushing a glider to Mach 1.0+, 50,000 ft, and the glider using artificial intelligence to glide back down to a landing right in front of me. This will be the “Hail Mary” that the Space Shuttle was ready to fly (that many suspected would never work) if it lost an engine or two on ascent. Can I do it?
OK NEXT STEP: BUILD A BIGGER ROCKET!
My rocket is very big. And here I am posing with it, with one of my wife’s cats. I don’t know why.
The glider, clearly visible in red, carries a GPS-tracker that will relay the speed and altitude in flight to my Mac laptop on the ground! My first mission control with a radio down-link.
This is the Oz-2, my second rocket, which would also ultimately spin out of control due to the de-stabilizing influence of the wings at the top:io down-link.
This is the Oz-2, my second rocket, which would also ultimately spin out of control due to the de-stabilizing influence of the wings at the top: