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Hot PTFE action for spaceplane's mighty rod

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The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

We do like a bit of unboxing down here at the Special Projects Bureau, so there was a decided frisson this afternoon when we took delivery of a stiff and deliciously slippery tube.

Click here for a bigger version of the LOHAN graphicLow Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) regulars will be aware of the ongoing debate about the Vulture 2 spaceplane launch system, which – on paper at least – currently involves mounting a meaty titanium rod.

There's been plenty of reader input on the delicate matter of just how to ensure that aircraft doesn't get iced to the launch platform, and our cunning plan involves sticking the rod through a couple of Teflon inserts, which should solve the problem.

Here's the basic idea:

Graphic of our proposed Vulture 2 launch system (click for a larger version)

So, the idea is to have the internal diameter of the Teflon insert a tad bigger than the rod, and thus allow the Vulture 2 to rock slightly, the better to prevent icing.

Well, we were looking around for something suitable for the job, and are most obliged to silicone hose manufacturer Venair for providing us with a sample of the splendidly named Venaflon:

A length of Venaflon tube

You can't really argue with Venaflon's suitability for the job. It boasts a smooth PTFE liner, surrounded by a silicone tube reinforced with polyester textile and a stainless steel spiral: all of which is good to -60°C

The question now is: Will the PTFE stick to the titanium bar under extreme icing conditions? We'll find out when we take delivery of the dry ice needed for our Rocketry Experimental High Altitude Barosimulator (REHAB) experiment, when we'll take the opportunity to plunge the rod and tube into the cold box, and see what happens.

We also have a tube of lube to hand if required – Molykote 33 low temperature grease, which works down to -73°C.

As you can see, we're pulling out all the stops to make sure our launch system has the best possible chance of success, because let's face it, the Vulture 2 stuck on the launch pad because the weather got a bit too chilly would be a right royal pain in the backside.

Of course, if you think we're on the wrong track, your comments and suggestions are always welcome, especially down at the Reg forums' LOHAN mosh pit. ®

Further LOHAN resources:

  • New to LOHAN? Try this mission summary for enlightenment.
  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • Join the expert LOHAN debate down at Reg forums.
  • All the LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) vids live on YouTube.
  • For our SPB photo archive, proceed directly to Flickr.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

A tip of the hat to our LOHAN associates

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