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LOHAN team buried under ballockets

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Try Ian William's radical alternative, which involves three parachutes "in a framework, under which the spaceplane is suspended". Ian clarifies: "If you angle the parachutes correctly, the assembly will drift to one side as it falls. Then you can fire the spaceplane vertically up through the framework."

Vulture 2 launch assembly held under three parachutes

And finally, we give you Marc Gale, a man for whom a mere three balloons and a single rocket motor just isn't sufficient.

Marc's pitch explains: "A tricky area would be using the Vulture 2's elevons as rocket canards, as the movement will work the other way around and whatever guidance you have will need to flip its Y axis around to go from Canard Mode to Elevon Mode.

"Probably need a location beacon on each of the stages too. You might want to look at the feasibility of using long streamers instead of parachutes, depending on how heavy each stage is going to be."

Vertically-arranged clusters of balloons to lift LOHAN

A multiple rocket stage concept

We reckon that's a pretty good effort all round, and thanks to all of you who took the time to submit ideas. Obviously, we simply didn't have the time to present every submission, but reckon the above is a fair representation of the main concepts we now have to mull.

So, what's next? Well, beloved ballocketeers, the answer is that we hit the fab bunker and make scale models of some of the above and see how they fly. Watch this space... ®

Bootnote

A special mention must go to David Swanson, for his radical contribution which didn't really fit into any of the broad categories above:

The radical helium balloon valve design

Here's David's explanation:

Concerning the LOHAN balloon launch system, I've written out an idea which would lift the craft underneath a single balloon and launch it vertically, by allowing a controlled deflation and disposal of the balloon. As a plus, it works without electronics.

I have a diagram drawn which would help explain my thinking, I just don't know where to send it. Overall, Vulture 2 (or possibly a launch platform), would have a hole going through it's center tapering out larger towards the bottom. A deflation mechanism will attach to the balloon, and fit in this hole such that the hole taper will attach the balloon directly to the craft.

System Component Description:

Balloon – Weather balloon, which I am really not familiar with.

Deflation Mechanism – 3-part device that secures a tube inside the neck of the balloon, has a clamp around the outside of the balloon, and a plug on the very bottom of the tube. The plug will require a release mechanism to vent the plug when desired. The mechanism has tapered sides that match up with the hole going through Vulture 2.

Balloon Clearance Bearings – Ball bearings, or some similar device on spring loaded arms. Located on the top of the inner hole. They rest on the deflation mechanism.

Shielding Struts – lightweight struts projecting outwards around LOHAN to provide some protection to the control surfaces.

Theory of Operation:

1. At predetermined height/pressure/time release mechanism will open the plug on the balloon, resulting in a deflating balloon, whose helium will be directed downwards, giving a last bit of acceleration.

2. When acceleration from balloon deflation has stopped, the deflation mechanism will begin to fall out the bottom of the craft, since the taper is only holding it in, pulling the balloon with it.

3. The balloon clearance bearings will spring inwards once the Deflation Mechanism has started to fall. This is to minimise the balloon scraping along the inside. As this point the Deflation Mechanism will be below the craft, but still attached to it by the deflated balloon. If the craft begins to tumble, the latex will contact in the direction that the craft is tipping, and pull it back towards vertical position.

4a. If the balloon successfully clears the craft, through its central hole, Vulture 2 will now be oriented vertically ready to eject the shielding struts and ignite rockets.

4b. If the balloon was to slag off to one side of the craft on top, it should become entangled on the shielding struts. If the deflation mechanism rivals the weight of the balloon, it should still be able to stabilize the craft. In this situation it would be preferable to have the rockets directed through the central hole. The hot exhaust would burn through the balloon, allowing it to fall free off the craft with the shielding struts, giving a free craft launching in a vertical position.

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