Newquay Airport in Cornwall has been chosen for conducting ‘slow speed trials for Bloodhound – a supersonic car manufactured in the UK, and designed to break the land speed record in South Africa next year.
The tests are an opportunity for the development team to gain early key data while Bloodhound is in motion. Chief Engineer, Mark Chapman explained in a recent report, “We’ve gone from a computer design to an actual thing that will move down the runway, it will be a huge validation for the people who’ve stood by us all these years and it’s happening.”
The trial will also be used as a promotional event in order to attract further sponsorship to help the team through the final stages and any hurdles that they may meet.
Bloodhound’s driver, Andy Green will push the car at reduce speeds of up to approximately 200mph, rather than the 800-1000mph speed that he is hoping to achieve during the land speed record attempt. The 200mph test trials will take place on a 9000ft long runway at a former RAF base, allowing the team to fully test Bloodhound’s engine, the same as that used on the Eurofighter-Typhoon fighter jet. The runway is simply too short to allow Bloodhound to achieve full thrust. The team are using this opportunity to gain important data and information, prior to the final stages of the trials, after which, Bloodhound will receive its final addition, a rocket motor that is currently under development by Nammon, a Norwegian aerospace company. Even so, Bloodhound’s development team have expressed their wishes for the thrust levels to be increased, which will require a further period of testing. Chapman is upbeat. “We hope to be starting this programme in the next two to three months, we are fairly confident that we’ll have a rocket being tested within six months, and then the fully operational rocket within 12 months.”
The first of these tests, due to take place on Thursday 26th October, will be viewed by a restricted audience, including representatives from the media, VIP’s, sponsors and members of The Bloodhound 1k Club – Bloodhound will then be on public display one week later.
Throughout the tests, the team involved with Bloodhound will be monitoring how air enters the jet intake at slow speed and its affects on the management and performance of the power units; the electronics and control systems within the vehicle will also be assessed at the same time – onboard telemetry will be assessed and recorded to improve performance. The car has been fitted with 10 cameras enabling the team to observe how Bloodhound performs in real time.
The day will also be the most critical day for the driver, as it will be his first experience of how the vehicle behaves, from steering action, accelerator and brake actions to noise and vibrations – these physical reactions cannot be simulated through a computer.
Andy Green set the current land speed record at 763mph in a vehicle called Thrust SSC back in ????. His new land speed attempt will take place at Hakskeen Pan, a dried out lake in the Northern Cape of South Africa to attempt his two stage record attempt – the first stage will be to reach 800mph, followed with stage two reaching a ridiculous 1000mph.
Cape Canaveral in Florida are looking forward to utilising two launch pads again following an explosion on Launch Pad 40 in September last year. Busy construction crews are currently repairing and upgrading the pad, with the hope that the repairs will be complete and ready to use for its return to service at the end of the summer. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 flights have all had to take off from Pad 39a since the explosion reduced the amount of intended launches.
In addition to the private funding by SpaceX and NASA, $5 million in funds have been contributed by the state of Florida to Space Florida, to help with the costs of the upgrades to Pad 40. Part of the funding has been allocated towards an improved flame trench and enhanced acoustic suppression capability.
SpaceX are currently clearing ways for making preparations for the triple-core Falcon Heavy’s maiden flight later this year, now that Pad 40 is due to be ready for use again. Modifications also need to be made for Pad 39A in order to accommodate the Falcon Heavy. Once Pad 40 is fully operational, all of SpaceX launches will be relocated back to Cape Canaveral, so that the construction crews can continue with the ongoing plans on Pad 39A.
Since the explosion, Pad 40 had been deemed as unusable. Investigations following the engine failure of the Falcon rocket concluded that the cause of the explosion occurred during fuelling before pre-launch hold down firing, and that the explosion took place during the Falcon’s second stage of take-off.
In January, Falcon 9 rockets continued their flights, taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A space station resupply mission took place from Pad 39A during February this year.
It is reported that the heavy-lifting stage has been made from 3 Falcon 9 initial stage boosters that have been bolted together. A single-engine upper stage has also been incorporated. SpaceX have said that if can loft 63.8 metric tons of payload into Low Earth Orbit several hundred miles above the Earth, or 26.7 metric tons, which would allow the launch system to send payloads into a transfer orbit at a higher altitude for communication satellites. With these figures in mind, it is assumed that SpaceX will dispose of the Falcon Heavy’s boosters. Two of the side-mounted stages are planned to land at Canaveral, with the centre engine unit designated to land on a platform based in the Atlantic Ocean. The Falcon Heavy will also keep reserve stocks of kerosene and liquid oxygen propellants, which is aimed to reduce the weight of the satellites it can carry into orbit.
Elon Musk, SpaceX Chief Executive is hopeful that the launch will take place soon, most likely in September. The three Falcon Heavy initial stage boosters are expected to be shipped to Florida within the next two to three months. Even though Musk has expectations for a launch in
September, this can only be classed as a best case scenario with the assumption that SpaceX’s preparations run smoothly with the configuration on Pad 39A for the Falcon Heavy.
It is planned that the two side boosters used on the first Falcon Heavy will be reused again during Falcon 9 missions. SpaceX will continue with countdown rehearsals, while the Falcon Heavy’s 27 main engines test fired at Pad 39A prior clearance for lift off. The will provide an ideal opportunity for the engineers to finely tune the launcher and ensure ground systems are functioning correctly.
SpaceX are speeding up their rocket flights with a flight due on June 17th, launching Bulgaria’s first communications satellite. The launch from Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Centre will be using a Falcon 9 first stage booster that had previously been used and recovered after a lift off in Calilfornia earlier this year. Following this launch, attempts to recover the first stage again will take place based on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. If all goes well, this will be followed by 10 next-generation Iridium communication satellite launches from an additional Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base on June 25th. Another Falcon 9 launch from Florida will carry the Intelsat 35e broadband relay craft. In both launches, the launch vehicles for these missions will be new.
The United States Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has commissioned Boeing to build a spaceplane capable of 10 launches in as many days.
The Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program is designed to give the US the ability to launch payloads to order, with the remit to “revolutionize the Nation’s ability to recover from a catastrophic loss of military or commercial satellites, upon which the Nation today is critically dependent.”
The XS-1 design selected by DARPA will see Boeing construct a spaceplane roughly the size of a business jet. The vehicle will take off like a rocket using the Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, and thrusters derived from the Space Shuttle’s main engine. The AR-22 is designed to offer 500,000 lbf of thrust.
Once the AR-22 gets the XS-1 to high suborbital altitude, a rocket that piggybacks the spaceplane will take over and will be capable of deploying a 3,000-pound satellite to polar orbit. The rocket itself will not be reusable, but the XS-1 will land like a conventional aircraft and made ready for another launch potentially within hours.
The XS-1 is classed as a hypersonic craft, thanks to what Boeing calls ‘third-generation thermal protection’, that can take the heat of faster-than-sound flight.
Boeing was awarded the contract after convincing DARPA it has the technical capability to build the hypersonic vehicle with a fast turnaround capability. The plan is to use easily accessible subsystem components, so that new components can be inserted or replaced in as little time as possible. The XS-1 is expected to use what are known as hybrid composite-metallic wings and control surfaces. These are already used in a number of Boeing designed aircraft, both military and civilian – and most notably on its mysterious X-37B spaceplane.
DARPA has given Boeing however a punishingly tight schedule for delivering the XS-1. By 2019, it’s hoped that the vehicle’s engines can be tested ten times in ten days. The first test flights have been scheduled for 2020, with 12-15 tests expected, including ten on ten consecutive days. The first few flights would be shakedowns, but then these tests would require payload-free operation at up to Mach 5. The last flights in the series would fly at up to Mach 10 and would have to deliver a demonstration payload between 900 and 3,000 pounds into Low Earth Orbit.
If all goes well, the US will eventually possess a platform capable of launching satellites at $5 million. That’s nicely priced given that at the small end of the space business, Vector Space Systems thinks it can launch 60kg (130 pounds) for $1.5 million, and SpaceX’s $62 million based price tag can buy you 50,265 pounds of freight in Low Earth Orbit, or 18,300 pounds in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit.
President Trump never seems to be out of the news. According to reports by Environmental Protection Agency Staff, President Trump has announced plans to slash its budgets in half, drastically decreasing their ability to deliver their scientific research programs.
The Environmental Protection Network is a newly formed coalition that includes retired employees, and members from both Republican and Democratic parties. Members of this coalition between them have decades of experience of managing the Environmental Agency’s day-to-day work. The group includes lawyers, scientists and previous staff who have developed and managed strategies and policies, and continue to employ their keen interest in, and display an aptitude for technical details. The coalition have released an analysis of the White House’s budget before the congressional testimony that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is due to deliver this week. This is the first opportunity that the EPA will have to defend against any of the damaging cuts, some of which will have the most far reaching repercussions.
One area that the EPA currently deals with are the climate regulations, which rely on the best available up to date scientific processes. One of the EPA’s principle achievements was the discovery that climate change can and will endanger human health, and under the Obama administration, its signature regulations on carbon emissions – the proposals that Trump’s administration are proposing, will undo this work. If the current science initiatives were removed and underfunded, the EPA would find it increasingly difficult to continue with their work.
Trump’s initial proposal seeks to reduce the EPA’s science programs by 47%. The budget also includes another 7.9% cut to the Science Advisory Board, who the EPA relies on for expert guidance with rulemaking. The analysis states “this area would be the most severely cut, contrary to verbiage in the budget document acknowledging the important role of science in carrying out EPA’s regulatory, permitting and enforcement responsibilities…the damage is not only to the EPA but to scientists across the country”.
The report has also provided figures that has worried the EPA in relation to the Trump administrations proposed changes, that calls for the EPA to ‘refocus’ their core responsibilities from cleaner air and water returning environmental responsibilities to a “back to basics agenda”. The administration are looking to reduce state grants for air and water programs by approximately 30%. These are significant cuts for states across the US – more than half of the grant money received goes to states. However, programs for lead, pesticides, hazardous waste, beach protection, drinking water, and brownfields would suffer under Trumps proposals. The report is stating that the budget will reduce the EPA’s funding to a level described as “not seen since virtually the inception of the EPA in 1970”. If carried forward, the EPA would be put in a position where they would need to dismiss approximately 3,800 staff, with the majority being a case of last in first out. These dismissals would be spread across 10 regional offices around the USA.