Feeds

Reg readers ponder LOHAN's substantial globes

One balloon or three for ballocket spaceplane mission?

Build a business case: developing custom apps

Our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project is beginning to work up a good head of steam, as we begin to consider the practicalities of launching a rocket-powered spaceplane from under a whopping helium balloon at a not inconsiderable altitude.

Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphicThanks to all of you who've chipped in ideas, and since our last update, we've been mulling your suggestions as to how to tackle the balloon bit of our ballocket enterprise.

The options can be summarised as follows: Single balloon; single doughnut balloon; or multiple balloons.

The single balloon configuration has the advantages of simplicity and ease of handling. Any of you who've ever launched one of these meteorological monsters will know they can be a bit of a bugger in even the merest hint of wind.

The multiple balloon option doesn't really offer any advantages, apart from greater lift. You won't necessarily get any higher with, say, three balloons tied together, and you've got the problem of controlling the beasts on the ground.

A couple of readers suggested this three-balloon set-up, with the Vulture 2 aircraft launching vertically through the "gap" in the middle. We're not convinced there would be any gap. The balloons start off big and become enormous at altitude, leading us to suspect they'd be snuggled together like a trio of gargantuan, wobbly Bulgarian airbags.

So, you've got a high risk of the Vulture 2 hitting a balloon, even if you attempt to separate them with some kind of hoop assembly – and then you've got the added risk of that assembly rupturing one of the balloons.

A radical alternative is the torus balloon – a doughnut with the spaceplane blasting through the hole. It's a lovely thought, and if any of you can find one, we're prepared to look into it, or indeed through it.

In the end, though, we reckon it's a case of less is more. Instead of wasting time on a complicated set-up with an increased risk of failure, we should concentrate our efforts on perfecting a launch platform which will work from under a single balloon.

We have no firm idea on the details, except that the Vulture 2 must launch from below the balloon, before the burst, and from a structure which doesn't add any unnecessary weight to the main payload.

To elaborate, we don't think any plan to launch from above the balloon has legs. There's no way we can see of providing a stable platform and not completely destroying the balloon and probably its recovery parachute when the rocket motor fires.

The Vulture 2 should go before the balloon burst because if we try and concoct some method of detecting the balloon's disintegration, we're just going to be adding another layer of systems complexity.

Furthermore, the balloon will shred into strips when it explodes, so you're talking an awful lot of flying latex debris. Taking all that on board, we're convinced a predetermined altitude launch is the way forward here, allowing the balloon's main payload cameras the best chance of capturing the action.

As we've said before, we think an initial launch attitude of 45° is required to avoid hitting the balloon. Here's our Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) balloon just before launch, so you can imagine just what the diameter of that was when it went bang at 89,000ft.

The PARIS launch

Of course, the Vulture 2 could fly an arc round the balloon to a vertical attitude, so we need to consider further the aircraft's control surfaces, and how they'll work in the rarified upper atmosphere.

For the moment, though, we need to get the Vulture 2 launch platform boxed off before getting stuck fully into the plane's design, since the latter depends to some degree on the former. All suggestions on this are, as ever, most welcome, and we'll see if we can at least get a working plan sorted in the next week or so.

Oh yes, one last thing. What is it with you lot and hydrogen? We're are not, under any circumstances – except possibly the complete exhaustion of the world's supplies of helium – going to touch hydrogen with a long, flameproof stick. Let that be an end to the matter. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
ASTEROID'S SHOCK DINO-KILLING SPREE just bad luck - boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.