We're absolutely delighted to announce that our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) spaceplane mission is cleared for blastoff on 14 September.
Yes indeed, ballocket fans, the time is almost nigh to dispatch the Vulture 2 heavenwards towards its date with aeronautical destiny.
If all goes according to plan, the aircraft will ascend under our fantastical flying truss - lifted by a substantial helium-filled orb - and at a pre-determined altitude thunder into history thanks to a substantial solid-fuel rocket motor.
Then, the Vulture 2 will glide back to a designated landing site under autopilot control. Simple as that. For LOHAN newbies, there's a mission summary here explaining the whole thing.
On hand for the big event will be High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) head honcho Dave Akerman and rocket-botherer Paul Shackleton, although sadly Special Project Electronic Altitude Release System (SPEARS) control board chaps Neil Barnes and Anthony Stirk can't make it.
Nonetheless, they will be around for a second SPEARS test flight in July. As regular readers know, the first attempt to get the thing aloft ended in disappointment, the English Channel and the loss of our heroic Playmonaut, although not necessarily in that order.
Yes yes, we hear you cry, that's absolutely fascinating, but for the love of all that's holy, where's LOHAN happening?
Well, you may recognise the launch site:
That's right, we're going to be sending LOHAN up from the Peña Negra, in the Spanish province of Ávila, which was the departure point for our Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) Vulture 1 on its way to a Guinness World Record. For those of you with Google Earth, there's a .kmz of the spot here.
Marvellously, the powers that be in sunny Spain have given us the go-ahead for airborne spaceplane operations, and we can only applaud the Agencia Estatal de Seguridad Aérea (State Air Security Agency) and Aeropuertos Españoles y Navegación Aérea (Spanish Airports and Air Navigation) for looking favourably on our application.
Naturally, there are conditions, because you really can't just be firing up spaceplane motors at high altitude willy-nilly. We'll bring you full details of those, as well as a complete run-down on the area of operations and landing site, in due course.
Once the team's flown in, the first possible launch date is Saturday 14 September. If conditions aren't right, we have another seven days to get aloft. Barring meteorological meltdown, we expect at least one day of ideal weather.
Before that, though, we've got plenty of work to do, including:
- Wrap Vulture 2 design and CAD work
- Print aircraft
- Acquire and test autopilot, servos, etc.
- Buy rocket motors, balloons, helium, beer, and so forth
- Decide on how to connect the rocket motor heater
- Determine mechanism for ignition failsafe
- Finish fantastical flying truss
- Complete SPEARS testing with second flight
- Recruit new Playmonaut
That should keep us off the streets for a while, and we'll report back shortly with updates and further requests for input from our beloved reader experts, without whom LOHAN would never have got off the ground. ®
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.