Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Of Rockoons and Romanians

Somebody's been watching Austin Powers too much.
That's the STABILO suborbital rocket, designed not by Dr. Douglas "Evil" Powers, no, but by ARCA.

"STABILO is a the latest suborbital manned system created by the European Team ARCA. ARCA hopes that its new spaceship, through its unique design and safety capabilities will capture the attention and will stimulate the imagination of the public." Read more about it here.

Also from that page:

Asociația Română pentru Cosmonautică și Aeronautică (ARCA) or Romanian Cosmonautics and Aeronautics Association is a non-governmental organization that promotes aerospace projects as well as other space-related activities. It is based in Râmnicu Vâlcea, Romania.

Um, OK. I had no idea Romania had a space program. This could be bad news for the British Space Program. They have competition. A new cold war, maybe?

Also from that page:

HAAS is an innovative air-launched, 3 stages orbital rocket, preliminary designed in 2006 using the technology developed at ARCA during The Ansari X Prize Competition and The European Private Manned Space Program. The rocket was named after Conrad Haas (1509-1579) German-Romanian medieval rocket pioneer, the first creator of multiple staged rockets.

The European Lunar Explorer - ELE is a 3 stages space probe able to fly from the Earth's low orbit to the Moon surface and to send scientific data back to Earth. ELE will be placed into orbit by the HAAS launcher.

Conrad Haas (1509–1576) was a military engineer of the Holy Roman Empire, who is believed to be the first person to describe a multistage rocket in writing.

Conrad Haas explaining his multi-stage rocket theory to a bird. While the bird was polite and attentive, such an audience was pretty low on the  "peer review" scale, so it didn't do much for Haas' career, and may explain why the Holy Roman Empire Space Program didn't get off the ground. We are currently exploring if this was the origin of the phrase"for the birds".
 Now, what is a "rockoon"?

Haas is a Romanian carrier rocket, which is being developed by ARCA as part of the ELE programme. It is designed to be air launched from a high-altitude balloon, similar to the American Rockoon experiments of the 1950s. Prior to the development of Haas, ARCA had already launched two Stabilo rockets from balloons. It is fueled by hydrogen peroxide and bitumen.

The Haas rocket, which was named after Conrad Haas, is a three stage rocket capable of placing 400 kilograms of payload into low Earth orbit. Its maiden flight, which will carry the European Lunar Explorer spacecraft, ARCA's entry into the Google Lunar X-Prize, is currently scheduled for early 2011, following a series of engine tests which will begin in 2009.

Ah, so it was the American's who made the first rockoons. Interesting (possibly only to me).

A Deacon rockoon just after shipboard launch.

A rockoon (from rocket and balloon) is a solid fuel sounding rocket that, rather than being immediately lit while on the ground, is first carried into the upper atmosphere by a gas-filled balloon, then separated from the balloon and automatically ignited. This allows the rocket to achieve a higher altitude, as the rocket does not have to move under power through the lower and thicker, layers of the atmosphere.

The original concept was developed by Cmdr. Lee Lewis, Cmdr. G. Halvorson, S. F. Singer, and James A. Van Allen during the Aerobee rocket firing cruise of the U.S.S. Norton Sound on March 1, 1949.
A serious disadvantage is that balloons cannot be steered and consequently neither the direction the launched rocket moves in nor the region where it will fall is easily adjustable. Therefore, a large area for the fall of the rocket is required for safety reasons.

Planned or scheduled space programs in 2011

  • Romania ELE – Early 2011 – Lunar lander
  • United States Juno – August 2011 – Jupiter orbiter
  • United States GRAIL – 8 September 2011 (scheduled) - Two spacecraft, Lunar orbiters
  • United States Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) – October 2011 - Mars Rover
  • People's Republic of China Yinghuo 1 – Late 2011 - Mars orbiter
  • Russia Phobos-Grunt – Late 2011/Early 2012 - Phobos sample return, Mars orbiter

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