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Space

Canadian Team Plans Balloon-Aided X-Prize Entry 102

Posted by timothy
from the canadian-expansionism-at-work dept.
canning writes: "The National Post has an article briefly explaining the Canadian entry for the X Prize, the da Vinci project. The site includes visuals and a volunteer section, among others. The team plans to avoid almost the first half of the earth's atmosphere by launching the craft attached to a hot air balloon. The rocket will then fire it's engine and detach simultaneously. Interesting approach and believe it or not it gets better."
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Canadian Team Plans Balloon-Aided X-Prize Entry

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Yeah, nothing scares me more than Candains in space. Well, except maybe the French in space. And don't even get me started on the prospect of French-Canadians in space...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can I suggest approaching a chain of funeral homes.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    If this were someone from the Southern part of the United States, we would all be laughing our butts off at this hair brained scheme.

    Ah yes those stupid southerners, like those in Huntsville, AL [nasa.gov] or Houston, TX [nasa.gov] or Cape Canavaral, FLA [nasa.gov] or Hampton, VA [nasa.gov], or Bay St. Louis, MS [nasa.gov] or Wallops Island, VA [nasa.gov], obviously haven't a clue regarding space flight.

  • by Malc (1751)
    The irony of your comment is that the humourous bashing itself comes from an insecurity!
  • Last time I checked, the X-prize isn't for people going into orbit. It's for a "sub-orbital shot that leaves most of the atmosphere and comes back". That IS all they want to do.
  • Any ideas how they intend to recapture the baloon? I would think that after it is detached from the rockey, it would want to shoot up to even higher altitudes.
  • ..but if your aardvark is at an infinite distance from Earth it has already escaped, and technically won't ever fall to earth (which is lucky for the ardvaark, as even freeze-dried it'll be mincemeat if it hits the Earth at 11.2km/s, to say nothing of the fact that it won't taste very good after being carbonised due to entry into the Earths atmosphere)!!

    Just being picky!
  • Good point.

    (That's a point and a half, Canadian.)

    -jeff
  • by MagicM (85041)
    To the Canadians: Whatever you do, do not let Bush talk you into taking a GPS tracker on board!
  • I thought that Yuri Gagarin's Vostok 1 flight was a full/near orbit of the Earth. Am I mistaken?
    http://www.slashdot.org/articles/01/04/12/1213227. shtml [slashdot.org]

    --

  • How much duct tape are they going to use in the construction of this vehicle? If this were someone from the Southern part of the United States, we would all be laughing our butts off at this hair brained scheme.
  • This will never work. It's nothing but hot air.
  • Assuming it survives re-entry, the rocket will release a huge wing-shaped parachute at about 7,600 metres, and Mr. Feeney will steer it to a soft landing near Moose Jaw, Sask.

    Assuming it doesn't, Mr. Feeny will quickly have a small sewage plant in his trousers and make quite an impression on the landscape of Moose Jaw...
  • Very nice. Why not throw a few more stereotypes around while you're at it? I'd say you were exhibiting an attitude "typical of a citizen of the USA", only as a Canadian, I'm too "polite".

    Without us, you wouldn't have made it to the moon in the timeframe JFK laid out. Who do you think made up a large percentage of NASA's engineering and science cores in the 1960's (and even today)? Canadians. Where do you think the Canadarm (shuttle) and Canadarm2 (ISS) came from? Do you need a hint?

    As for the metric system, wake up and smell reality. Most of the world uses the metric system these days, at least the rest of the technologically advanced world... except for your little backwater country. Of course, if you did bother to catch up and standardize with the rest of us, perhaps that little mishap with the Mars probe smacking into the Red Planet due to an Imperial/Metric conversion error wouldn't have happened. But I digress.

    Finally, you asked "What will we get in return?". Well, I don't know if you've been following the news or not (then again, US news is rather domestic in nature and tends to ignore anything happening outside of your borders, unless you're blowing something up), but guess which country has been knocking on Canada's door, looking for energy and freshwater handouts?

    Before you insult your neighbor, get a clue.

  • I should clarify...

    Actually, I have nothing against Canada. I'm just tired of all of the US bashing that goes on here, and wanted to fight back. If you pick on most countries, it is "racist" and "typically American". Turns out nobody cares if you make fun of Candana, though.

    ...and yes, the misspelling is an intentional mocking of canandain culture.

    --
  • by Nastard (124180)
    Candaian and full of hot air. There's a shocker.

    Damn shifty Canadians.

    --
  • Ha! I am Canadian (damn, it sounds just like the commercial with the beers...) Toronto, Ontario, M2R 3T7 (North York) live close to Steeles and Dufferin intersection.
  • I'd guess that's one of the motives behind Pegasus rockets, which are launched from planes. As to high altitudes launch sites, last I heard the latitude advantage turned out to be more workable (and overall more efficient) than an altitude advantage. Easier to ship Saturn V parts to Florida than Mt. McKinley...

  • His grasp of rocketry is impressive and his insight incredible. Mod it up, please.
  • And, yes, I'm aware that the craft in the article is a simple balloon not a powered craft. You have to start somewhere, though.
  • > He is obviously only going some minutes out of the atmosphere, and then down again

    a)it even says that right in the article.
    b)I'm not aware of any manned space programs that have done more on their first launch...why should these guys be any different? They have a fraction of the budget, so they should accomplish far MORE? what?
  • Nice to see that they can read William Gibson up there. I know the concept of balloon-assisted launched came up in one of his short stories in Burning Chrome .("White Star, Red Orbit" or something like that.)

    I can't find any earlier reference...of course, I haven't looked extensively. Anyone know where this concept came from?


    ----------------------------------------
    Yo soy El Fontosaurus Grande!
  • We bash you too!!

    And that's Quebec for you mister!

    Though we don't bash you specifically because you're exactly like american, we bash "les anglais"

    Nice cultural exchange!
  • Well that's interesting, I didn't know western canadians felt that way about eastern canadians.

    Also, if it makes you feel better, we do bash only americans sometimes for their extravagant culture (guns,trials,elections...). But we never bash english canadians specifically because you(in our culture) have no particular trait that americans don't have. For example, your obsession with flags and national anthem is shared by americans.

    You don't have to be sad that Canada is divided, it's like saying that it's sad that North america is so divided, it's just normal for different societies with different languages to have trouble understanding each other.

    You'll see that relations between french and english-speaking people here will greatly improve once politics gets out of the way (i.e. when Quebec becomes a country)
  • Ted Koppel even suggests that Rick Mercer, one of our beloved comedy heros is a communist, anarchist and even malicious for his hilarious "Talking to Americans" spot.

    This is must see RealTV! [ctvnews.com]

  • The article says that the rocket launches at a 60 degree pitch, travels for a while at that attitude, then tips up to 90 degrees for the rest of the trip.
  • "It's Canadian-built and it's as good as anything NASA's got," he says, adding with a grin. "And a lot cooler-looking."
    Of course here, he is referring to the space suit. Read the paragraph before:
    He has lined up a space suit for his first trip on the rocket, designed by a Vancouver manufacturer of deep-sea diving suits.

    "It's Canadian-built and it's as good as anything NASA's got," he says, adding with a grin. "And a lot cooler-looking."

    We're not trying to outdo NASA, we're trying to overcome that psychological barrier: that you can't go into space without all sorts of government technology and funding."
    Yup, that's sort of the whole point of the X-Prize. Civillians designing things that until now were only done by Gov't contractors

    "People at NASA and Boeing have started calling us up and saying: 'Hey, can I take a look at this?'
    How is this a "High expectation"? I'd say that's pretty impressive already!

    "This is going to change history - I'm certain of that."
    Are you saying that you don't think a civillian made aircraft reach sub-orbit will leave its mark on history?

  • Yes, Dennis Tito was a civilian in space, but he got there with the help of the Russians. The whole point of the Da Vinci project is getting into orbit with out the aid of experianced governments.
  • Main Entry: satire
    Pronunciation: 'sa-"tIr
    Function: noun
    Etymology: Middle French or Latin; Middle French, from Latin satura, satira, perhaps from (lanx) satura dish of mixed ingredients, from feminine of satur well-fed; akin to Latin satis enough -- more at SAD
    Date: 1501
    1 : a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn
    2 : trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly synonym see WIT [m-w.com]

    Just in case you didn't know...

    B
  • ...can be found at www.darwinawards.com [darwinawards.com].

    B
  • Slashdotted, and it was servin up pretty fast too
  • I was wondering about this, too, until I read the following towards the bottom of the article:

    2. After 7 - 8 seconds of flight at 60 degrees followed by thrust vectoring to 90 degrees, the four fins separate from the rocket. The main engine cuts off at 40km, and the rocket glides for about five minutes in zero - G.

    So hopefully it won't plow right into the balloon.

    Mr. Spey
  • What kind of shite is that pal? Get down off the high-horse, the rest of the world dosnt have misguided opinion of America as Americans do.

    Your statement is fucking ridiculous.

  • Well, while I agree with you in general, I don't know how well that fits with the American cultural psyche. In my observation, it seems that not even Americans make fun of America, and if other people do, that's even worse. I mean, they make fun of their public figures (politicians, etc), but there's little in the way of humour about America and it's culture in general (vs the Canadian tendency to have a humour about ourselves and our stereotypes (see Air Farce)). After all, you said it yourself, even your Japanese friend has no problem saying "us dumb nipsters", but I don't know if I'd catch an American saying "we dumb Americans"...
  • Not to be insensitive, but did Christa McAuliffe actually make it into space?
  • Dennis Tito was the first Paying Tourist Civilian in space. NASA has been sending civilians to space for two decades on the space shuttle. To pick, as an example, a name you might remember ... Christa McAuliffe [christa.org] was a schoolteacher. She was neither the first nor last civilian, but was the only civilian casualty of the space program.

    Of course, you could look at in another way ... NASA is technically a civilian bureau, and many of the career astronauts do not hold military rank.

    What the site said is that Feeney will be the first Canadian civilian in space.

  • Just to battle the bigotry, I thought I'd point oot a few Canadians who go into space regularly:
    • Roberta Lynn Bondar: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/PS/bondar.html
    • Marc Garneau: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/garneau.html
    • Chris Hadfield: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/hadfield.htm l
    • Steven MacLean: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/maclean.html
    • Julie Payette: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/payette.html
    • Bob Thirsk: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/PS/thirsk.html
    • Bjarni Tryggvason: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/tryggvas.htm l
    • Dave Williams: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/williams.htm l
  • Vietnam War Draft-dodging adopted [8op.com], to be specific.
  • Well it seems to me that any nation (developed or not) should be able to produce a few people that can think. It is a bit telling that all those engineers and scientists had to drive so far south to find a job, though.
  • Finally, a use for our politicians!
  • Um, kind of adopted Canadian. American born.
  • Maybe he meant the first in space on a civilian craft.
  • He invented the radiation belts? That fool, making space travel all difficult n' shi'. Or are you talking about the kind you wear?
  • Nah, I think most Americans actually see Canada as a very civilized and refined nation. Anyone poking fun on /. is probably either a troll or just horsing around.
  • What happens to the balloon? Given the sudden enormous thrust coming from those rockets ("0 to full thrust in less than 100 milliseconds"), I can't imagine anyone else being up there to guide the balloon down. That is, assuming the balloon survives the launch at all.
  • We need more things like this to further commercial involvement in space. I love anything that takes the power away from the government and puts it into the hands of the people. It sounds like this guy knows what he's doing (from the article) and I wish him success. Even if he blows up and becomes a high tech fireworks show, it will still be an acheivement of bravery like none shown in recent times.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
  • Maybe if you ask really nice we'll attach a GPS emitter to it so Bush can shoot it down with his new Star Wars system.
  • "are you an american?"
    "no I'm canadian.. Its like an american but without a gun"
    -kids in the hall

  • "It's Canadian-built and it's as good as anything NASA's got," he says, adding with a grin. "And a lot cooler-looking."

    "We're not trying to outdo NASA, we're trying to overcome that psychological barrier: that you can't go into space without all sorts of government technology and funding."

    "People at NASA and Boeing have started calling us up and saying: 'Hey, can I take a look at this?'

    "This is going to change history - I'm certain of that."

    Well this does seem nice and everything but... uh... are they expecting to colonize mars too???

  • "As for the metric system, wake up and smell reality. Most of the world uses the metric system these days, at least the rest of the technologically advanced world... except for your little backwater country." First of all, I think it is somewhat funny that you refer to the most productive and powerful nation on the planet as a "little backwater country." If the English(or British Gravitational or Imperial) system of units is such a handicap, then how do you explain America's general success in engineering and technical matters? At one time the argument "it is simpler because you multiply everything by 10s" would work. Now, thanks to my HP calculator, it is just as easy to multiply by 12 as it is by 10. The mistake with the Mars probe was due more to poor contractor/NASA communication, than to the units used. As an engineer who has had to use both systems, I actually find it easier to catch English unit conversion errors than metric ones. If I get a result in the metric system that is off by about a factor of 10, there is no way to know where the mistake is. If I get a result that seems to be off by about a factor of 12 while using the English system, I know to go and check that inches to feet has been converted correctly. This assumes, of course that I have a have an idea of about what the answer will be which is not always the case. Of course, the metric systems doesn't have that whole pound-mass vs. pound-force problem.
  • I disagree. First, at 40,000 ft. you have a lot less air friction than you do at sea level. The air friction in the darn dense soup we have for an atmosphere is significant in getting to space. One rule of thumb I have seen is that air friction costs you about 1000 ft./s of velocity. As bad as air friction is, climbing out of the gravity well is harder. Losses due to fighting gravity are going to be about 3 times those of fighting air friction. Assuming the rocket weighs about 6000 lbs (that's just a guess, I don't see the mass on the website), then that should save them about 300000 BTU by going to 40000 ft. by balloon. That is nothing to sneeze at; especially in the vicious cycle of rocket sizing.

    Also, you have to understand that rocket engine nozzles (in the atmosphere) are designed to operate best at one particular altitude (or more correctly air pressure). If the altitude is lower than the design altitude then the gasses leaving the engine nozzle are underexpanded, and it the altitude is higher then they are overexpanded. In either case the nozzle operates less efficiently. There are various schemes to allow one nozzle to work well at both low and high altitude (like expandable or inflating nozzles) but those add weight and complexity. By launching at 40,000 ft. instead of at sea level, the change in pressure is not as dramatic through the rocket's flight and so off-design performance is reduced.

    I'm not saying that this is going to revolutionize rocketry. The rockoon has been around since the 50s, and (as you point out) there are some disadvantages for using it as an orbital launch vehicle, but the X-prize isn't for going to orbit. For just a low cost sub-orbital tourist jaunt, a rockoon is not a bad choice.
  • The private space venture that the X-prize is supposed to lead to is low cost sub-orbital tourist flights. That may not seem as worthwhile as putting objects into orbit, but if people will pay to do it (and if it is cheap enough they will), then it is a great way to kick start private manned space flight. After companies get the hang of suborbital "extreme tourist" flights and they prove themselves profitable, then the next obvious step is orbit (and zero-g private hotel rooms).

    You can find more information on the x-prize at: http://www.xprize.org/~Xprize/info/
  • I agree with the statment about "the seemingly common misperception of an annoying number of Slashdotters that they're Really Smart, and that nobody else gives anything any real thought." I think that often times things are much more complicated once you get into the details of the work than they appear to outsiders. As the saying goes "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" and a lot of us have a little knowledge about other people's jobs. Especially politics.

    As far as people from the U.S. making fun of people from Canada and not making fun of ourselves, I don't think it has to do with insecurity as much as the fact that we know the Canadians don't have guns. You can safely poke fun at the Canadians, but you have to think twice about making fun people from the U.S. because you don't know what they might be packing. Especially don't make fun of postal workers. :)

    "An armed society is a polite society" - Robert Heinlein
  • i proly missed something, but what the hell happens when the baloon suddenly looses all that ballast (the rocket) -- doesnt that raise it up like a couple hundred feet or more in a REAL hurry? Do they time this thing and start throwing out gas right away?

    seems cool, i sure hope this guy is succesful, I hate seeing cool things laughed at -- which is what happens if he kills himself

  • Translation: We Americans not only make fun of foreigners, we also make fun of people from other parts of the US.
  • Now that they've removed the obstacle of providing the fuel and thrust to muscle through the bottom (denser) half of the earth's atmosphere, they could conceivably use the extra tonnage to carry enough equipment to do just that. Not only would i be optimistic that this sort of civilian undertaking could colonize mars or install an orbital space station, with the benefits of a commercial budget (instead of a tax-funded one), i would imagine they could get the job done more cheaply and efficiently. No red tape, no senile politicians, no guilt about wasting tax dollars, this sounds like the way to go, to me anyway.
  • "He shrugs off suggestions that he is a mad scientist. "A year ago sure, some people said we were crazy," Mr. Feeney says. "But now we've done a launch, tested our engines ... and there seems to be a realization that this is a serious undertaking." I dunno about you people but I would gloat at being called a mad scientist, the cool hair, the cool lab coat and of course, all the sweet toys!
  • "suspended 300m below a piloted hot-air balloon. " I figure that the pilot will bring it back. Unless he's just checking out the view.
  • bspparse [threewave.com]

    I wrote it last night. No, really.

    \\\ SLUDGE

  • He is obviously only going some minutes out of the atmosphere, and then down again:

    1. The rocket carrying passenger Brian Feeney lifted to an altitude of 18km -- suspended 300m below a piloted hot-air balloon. The computer-controlled engine ignites and the rocket simultaneously separates from the balloon tether.
    2. After 7 - 8 seconds of flight at 60 degrees followed by thrust vectoring to 90 degrees, the four fins separate from the rocket. The main engine cuts off at 40km, and the rocket glides for about five minutes in zero - G.
    3. The rocket begins freefall for about 100 seconds. The reentry ballute is then deployed. The ballute protects the rocket from heat of thousands of degrees Celsius, and cushions the engines upon landing.
    4. The main chute deploys at 7.6km and slows the rocket to a speed of 4m per second. The rocket lands and falls on its side -- supported at 52 degrees by the ballute.
  • Ok, so what's the payload to orbit for this six foot rocket?

    Payload for a six-foot rocket would be about 5 kg (10 lbs) or so, assuming that 1% of the rocket's mass is cargo. This is a conservative estimate.

    You can fit many kinds of research satellite into this weight restriction. Sensor, camera, and Earth-observing telescope packages don't have to be that large or heavy, and as long as you have a large ground station to handle communications, the satellite's power requirements will be low.

    It would be tempting to try to launch something like a low-earth-orbit cell phone repeater, but you'd need a much heavier satellite for that (a communications satellite uses a lot of power).

    Right now small satellites like I've described are already used; they're just launched in the leftover cargo space on larger rockets, or in large groups from larger rockets that a coalition of users buys space on.

    Why has nobody built a small payload launch facility at altitude somewhere that there is a mountain range on a tropical east coast? Because while 20 miles is good, 2 miles is still above a lot of the atmosphere, no? Just political reasons?

    Mainly because the payoff doesn't justify the cost. At 2 miles, you'd still have about 70% of the atmosphere above you, so your rocket would still be quite large. And if you can afford to build a rocket base on top of a mountain and transport rockets there, you can afford to build big rockets in the first place, and don't have a problem with atmosphere thickness :).

    Good thought, though.

    it would still be nice to see people aiming for orbit.

    Agreed.

    A rocket that could launch a human's worth of cargo would probably be big enough that you could launch it from the ground (and be expensive as all heck, alas).
  • I've noticed something disturbing - that any time a story mentions Canada, everyone jumps in to make fun of it. I understand that most readers of /. are Americans, but does that mean we have to ignore the posted story and focus on unimportant details like nationality?

    Well, not everyone disses it, but yeah, there does seem to be a lot of that.

    I think it's partly the seemingly common misperception of an annoying number of Slashdotters that they're Really Smart, and that nobody else gives anything any real thought. So they assume that any possible little objection they can think of -- usually without even reading more than a paragraph or two of information -- is an idea-killer that the people who are actually doing something are too dumb to have thought of. Usually, of course, it's the sort of thing that the folks actually working on something easily worked out a long time ago.

    (That part's not really relevant to this being worked on by Canadians. It's just really common here.)

    I think it especially comes up with Canadians, 'cause a lot of folks in the US dislike being laughed at, despite how laughable many of us are. So when people in the US make fun of Canadians, it's often the sort of sad, fake, forced "yer rilly dum, ha, ha, ha" that some insecure kids do to other kids.

  • I don't know if I'd catch an American saying "we dumb Americans"...

    You've never seen Married with Children, the Simpsons or All in the Family. We're very aware that the average is stupid. Including the American average. One thing you also have to be aware is that "American" is a two century old concept. Many of us still have very very strong ties to our Irish, Jewish, Germanic or other history, and even stronger is our regional origin. We speak differently (different accents, different terms), and eat completely different foods (we southerners gag at the concept of some northern food, and the damn yankees can't get it through their skull that iced tea, and biscuits with thick white sausage gravy is a great breakfast).

    Having said that, as a southerner, I can make redneck and hick jokes among my friends, and they are funny. A northerner does the same thing, and we take offense. There is no logic - don't search for any - but it is a fact of how people view themselves.

    A friend of mine has a really awful mother. He goes on and on about what a bitch she it (I've seen her screaming at him). We were chatting when a tactless friend of ours (every group has one), said: "Yeah, but your moms a psycho-bitch".

    The group got quiet, and everybody got uncomfortable, and he said "What? You always say that yourself!". I turned to him and said: "Yes, that's his right... it's his mom. But it's not cool for someone else to slam her like that".

    It seems to be a fairly human trait. And trust me, yes, we Americans are ruthless about how much we make fun of ourselves. Here in Palm Beach, for example, we constantly go on about how dumb people here are (especially the elderly which makes a good chunk of the people living here). Plenty of jokes about driving habits, grocery store behaviour, etc. We have phrases like "Oh, they're from *Boca*..." or "Typical island resident". The same kind of jokes any region has about themselves. But when the world turned on us during the election, we all got pissed.

    Human nature - we make fun of ourselves and laugh... as long as we're the only ones laughing. Look at Homer and Bart Simpson.

    --
    Evan

  • Which is, actually, an interesting point about Canadian humour. We're constantly making fun of ourselves (well... Americans, too ;). Americans, though, don't seem to have the same sense of humour about themselves and their culture

    I think it's pretty much human nature that a group can make fun of themselves, but dislike when others try to do the exact same. Witness the word "nigger", used by blacks amongst themselves. Hell, witness the word "geek" used amongst computer experts. And I have a japanese friend (spent a few years growing up in England, less than a year in the US) who got all pissed at some ass talking loudly at a airshow about how those japs can't build airplanes worth a shit, but when he screws up, or a fellow japanese screws up, he uses his phrase "all us dumb nipsters".

    As far as "hicks of the far north" humor goes, could you see Red Green try building a rocket for the X-Prize? It would somehow involve duct tape, a drill, a watering trough, and lots of fire. Ah, PBS... land of the Boston Pops, Nova, and lit fart jokes.

    --
    Evan

  • Furthermore, you don't need to hit escape velocity to get to orbit. Even one mile per year, as long as you maintain it, will eventually take you into orbit.
  • You need to be moving at a certan speed tangental to the orbit you want to be on. The speed is defined by how far away you are. If you were really, really, far away then you could orbit the earth at 1mile/year, but you would be much more affected by the sun and other celestial bodies.
  • He seems ilke an enviornment friendly source.
  • yup - and as they've found while it seems easy - tie a rocket on a balloon, let go of the balloon, launch the rocket when it get high enough - it's not - I've watched those guys (JP's mob - all volunteers) at Blackrock work their way up from small scale models in baby steps over the past few years, they'll make it eventually - it's hard, harder than it seems - launching big balloons is a hard problem in itself
  • It's okay. I liken it to watching a child grow up, discovering the same things you did, making the same silly mistakes, and learning the same valuable lessons. And they have us to learn from, so they will eventually catch up.

    I look forward to Canada reaching the point where they can build a challenger.

    --
  • movie [davinciproject.com]

    some news: Canadian government is preparing itself for a top secret operation code name: "the da Vinci Project" to take over the world. Apparently a hot air baloon, a medium sized air to space and back to Earth missile and a large parachute will be used. The idea is to cover the rest of unpopulated area with large images of red maple leaves thus confusing the beavers into believing that the fall is coming with all the horrible consequences... 95 to 99 percent of population is expected to be eliminated from the face of the planet.
    On the lighter note Appeals Court Denies Microsoft Request for Rehearing, more tba later.
  • "Red Star, Winter Orbit" features spacecraft launched from solar-power balloons that people had colonized. They make their way up to an abandoned Russian space station just in time to move in...

    "We're from the balloons. Squatters, I guess you could say. Heard the place was empty. You know the orbit is decaying on this thing?" The man executed a clumsy midair somersault, the tools clattering on his belt. "This free fall's outrageous."

    "God," said the woman, "I just can't get used to it! It's wonderful. It's like skydiving, but there's no wind."

    Korolev stared at the man, who had the blundering, careless look of someone drunk on freedom since birth. "But you don't even have a launchpad," he said.

    "Launchpad?" the man said, laughing. "What we do, we haul these surplus booster engines up the cables to the balloons, drop 'em, and fire 'em in midair."

    "That's insane," Korolev said.

    "Got us here, didn't it?"

  • I understand the desire to make a target that can be more easily attained by a private group, but the real problem in getting to space for real -- ie. to orbit, is momentum, not the atmosphere.

    So this group has figured that in getting to 120km of altitude, the atmosphere is a big part, so a baloon can make the difference. Great, but what use is it in getting us closer to private space ventures, which is what the X prize was supposed to be about?
  • Ok, so what's the payload to orbit for this six foot rocket? Why has nobody built a small payload launch facility at altitude somewhere that there is a mountain range on a tropical east coast? Because while 20 miles is good, 2 miles is still above a lot of the atmosphere, no? Just political reasons?

    Well, if the x-prize results in something that can launch a nanosat, I guess I will have to eat my words, but it would still be nice to see people aiming for orbit.
  • Not only that, but William Gibson IS Canadian.
  • Am I the only one who is wondering about this:

    "From there, the rocket will simultaneously disconnect from the balloon, ignite its engines and shoot out of the upper atmosphere and into space."

    "Mr. Feeney hauls himself into the seven-metre-long bullet, carefully avoiding the pair of ominous black rocket nozzles and works his way up to the front windows that look as though they were stolen from the alien invaders of War of the Worlds".

    Last time I checked my physics book, wouldn't the balloon be DIRECTLY IN THE PATH of his planned trajectory? All the pretty windows will give him a nice view of the insides of the balloon. If it's made of Mylar, maybe he will have a nice view of some guy screaming his head off as he zips uncontrolled into the outer atmosphere.

    B
  • Heh, well, while I do agree with you about your observation (I myself am a proud Canadian currently living in the nations capital, and I've noticed a great deal of Canadian-bashing on /.), we do deserve at least a little derision, given the amount of criticism we level at our neighbours to the south. I myself have enjoyed a good bout of American-bashing (as I'm sure many others have, all over the world :), so it doesn't surprise me when I see a little turn-about on an American-based website with a majority American readership.

    Granted, the tone of the comments tends to be different (Americans, when bashing Canadians, tend to be haughty, arrogant, and condescending, while Canadians are more self-riteous), but that's mostly cultural and shouldn't really be surprising. After all, many Americans (in my observation) really do think the US is the greatest nation in the world, while Canadians tend to, at least partially, identify themselves as proudly being "not-American" (again, my observation).

    In the end, I just view all of this with a certain bit of humour. And, it's not exactly unique to the American-Canadian relationship... Americans have similar stereotypes about the French, British, etc, and I'm sure Canadians have similar sterotypes (eg, the Quebeque, and they're part of our country!). Besides, there are a number of excellent, informative, supportive comments, along with the Canadian bashing, so it's not all bad.

  • He he, and that doesn't surprise me one bit. :) You know, it's funny, though... after re-reading my post, I realized that even I have that us-vs-them mentality toward Quebec.. I was raised in Alberta, so, really, I have an us-vs-them mentality toward all of eastern Canada :), but, still, it's kind of sad. What's worse is that you guys think of us as "exactly like american"... I suppose it shouldn't be surprising, but it still makes me feel sad, that the country should be so divided...
  • Umm...hate to burst yer bubble, dude, but a lot of the engineering experience that went into Apollo and Shuttle designs was Canadian. A lot of Canadian aerospace engineering talent cut their teeth on the ill-fated Avro Arrow eventually made their was into the US space program. The Arrow, designed during the cold war, was a fighter jet years ahead of its time. The Canadian government mysteriously shit-canned the project, but it's a well-accepted theory in Canada that pressure from the US military was largely responsible for this (they did not want such advanced military tech freely available outside the US at this time).
  • Actually Canada's secret weapon is the Canadian Arrow [canadianarrow.com] which is based on the design of the V2 rocket [canadianarrow.com].
  • Actually, NASA gets "escape velocity" wrong on that page. They're saying it's the speed you need to go just to reach orbit. That's obviously not true, because if you're in orbit, you haven't escaped. Imagine a universe comprised entirely of the Earth and a freeze-dried aardvark. The aardvark is floating in space at a distance of infinity from the Earth. It begins to fall towards the Earth, accelerating as it goes. The speed it will have attained by the time it impacts is equal to Earth's escape velocity. It is indeed 11.2km/s, and quite a bit faster than mere orbital velocities.
  • I just had a thought. Could this system be used to launch the breadbox-sized minisats mit is working on? Once the main space capsule left the atmosphere, couldn't it release a small satellite with a small engine before it re-entered the atmosphere. Even if you couldn't get the minisat in orbit, might it still be usefull for some minutes/hours/whatever before it came down?

    Please note, I am not a rocket scientist, just an overcaffeinated nerd.


    USA Intellectual Property Laws: 5 monkeys, 1 hour.
  • The concept was invented by James Van Allen (the same guy who invented radiation belts... or something like that) and some of his associates while they were working on sounding rockets back in the late 1940s.

    Van Allen was not Canadian, he was from Iowa. I don't know where any of the other co-inventors were from. Not to say anything bad about Canada's contribution to spaceflight; by cancling the Avro Arrow, Canada freed up a lot of good engineers to come down here to the Southern part of the United States and work on the Apollo program.

    More about James Van Allen: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/Bai/halas.htm

    More about rockoons: http://www.friends-partners.org/mwade/lvs/rockoon. htm
  • "We've got the expertise ... we've got real hard-core rocket experts."

    "The spaceship's connected to the... ballon, the balloon's connected to the.. wristwatch.." -Dr. Nick
  • Brian Feeney claims he will be the first civilian in space, but that is not possible. Dennis Tito was the first. At least Nasa considered him a civilian.
  • by Ralph Wiggam (22354) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @12:57PM (#2176098) Homepage
    According to NASA [nasa.gov] escape velocity is 11.2 km/sec or 25038.72 mph. But what do they know, they're stupid American rocket scientists.

    -B
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:51AM (#2176099) Homepage
    This is the same technique used by JPAerospace in their CATS prize attempt.

    http://jpaerospace.com

  • by BobGregg (89162) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:41AM (#2176100) Homepage
    >If this were someone from the Southern part of the United States,
    >we would all be laughing our butts off at this hair brained scheme.

    Uh... balloon launched rockets have been around since the '50s. There's even a well-known term for it: a "rockoon". Try a Google search for information.

    And as for "laughing your ass off" at the southern United States... one of the most successful recent rockoon launches, and the highest amateur rocket launch *ever*, was a rockoon launch just 3 years ago by... wait for it... the Huntsville, Alabama, chapter of the National Space Society. It was called Project HALO [hiwaay.net] (High-Altitude Lift Off). The only reason they didn't actually reach space the last time was due to a last-second failure of the balloon; and they're still trying to raise funds [hiwaay.net] to purchase another one. Quite a noble effort.

  • by Fjord (99230) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @12:43PM (#2176101) Homepage Journal
    Sure, it seems like an environmentally friendly source, until you consider what going into manufacturing a John Katz. Couple that with the waste it produces while in use, the relatively short life span, and the disposal problems, propane is much better.
  • by Galvatron (115029) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:54AM (#2176102)
    I look forward to Canada reaching the point where they can build a challenger.

    Ouch, that is a tasteless pun. Pretty damn funny though :)

    The only "intuitive" interface is the nipple. After that, it's all learned.

  • by RobinH (124750) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:46AM (#2176103) Homepage

    I've noticed something disturbing - that any time a story mentions Canada, everyone jumps in to make fun of it. I understand that most readers of /. are Americans, but does that mean we have to ignore the posted story and focus on unimportant details like nationality?

    We are living in a global society now, or at least that's what the internet is supposed to be creating, so why are we still concerned with these arbitrary meat world boundaries? Can't we get on with a meaningful discussion here?

    The fact that there are companies competing for the X-Prize is reason enough to link this story. Perhaps it should not have featured Canada so prominently in the title - it's not surprising that Canada is taking part in cutting edge research and development, because it always has. So, can we drop the nationalism at the homepage, and address the topic at hand?

  • by Digitalia (127982) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:08AM (#2176104) Homepage
    This isn't something that deserves to be lambasted and lampooned as much as it seems to be. It's a fine use of some old-school tech to solve a problem of today. Considering the advances in materials science since the days of the Zeppelin, we could produce some reliably safe craft with much greater lifting capabilities than ever before. In addition, the lifting apparatus could also serve as a means of terrestrial transport.
  • Because I know he's reading. :)

    What is your team's ultimate goal? Your web site [armadilloaerospace.com] states that you want to have "manned rockets", but do you want to achieve orbital space ships? Just ships to fly to 7-11 and back? Moon flights?

    And is this just a hobby to you? What about the future? Can you ever see rolling your current hobby into a future aerospace company?


    --

  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @12:26PM (#2176106) Homepage
    Which is, actually, an interesting point about Canadian humour. We're constantly making fun of ourselves (well... Americans, too ;). Americans, though, don't seem to have the same sense of humour about themselves and their culture (although they obviously do about their politicians... look who they elected president... ;).
  • Are we missing something by not reading all of the article???
    1. The rocket carrying passenger Brian Feeney lifted to an altitude of 18km -- suspended 300m below a piloted hot-air balloon . The computer-controlled engine ignites and the rocket simultaneously separates from the balloon tether.

    2. After 7 - 8 seconds of flight at 60 degrees followed by thrust vectoring to 90 degrees , the four fins separate from the rocket. The main engine cuts off at 40km, and the rocket glides for about five minutes in zero - G.
    Emphasis mine of course, but if I am not mistaken the balloon is piloted, so then it should be landable, and the rocket is launched at a 60 degree angle to move away from the balloon then they change the vector to 90 degrees to continue into space.

  • by Phanatic1a (413374) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:54AM (#2176108)
    Not much less. The whole problem to attaining orbit isn't so much that you've got to get up really high, but that you've got to get going really fast. The "first half" of an orbital flight isn't getting to 40,000 feet, it's getting to 8,500 miles per hour. Starting the engines only at 40,000 feet is helpful if all you want to do is fire a sub-orbital shot that leaves most of the atmosphere and comes back, but for actually putting substantial packages into orbit it doesn't help much, except with tiny payload masses. Still, I wish the guy good luck. Hopefully he'll fare better than Larry Waters.
  • by bartle (447377) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @01:32PM (#2176109) Homepage

    After all, many Americans (in my observation) really do think the US is the greatest nation in the world

    This attitude comes directly from American culture. We Americans are immersed in American culture to such a great extent that we have to go out of our way to see something that originated from another country. It is simply human nature assume that your way is the best; when you don't see many foreign movies, listen to foreign music, or read foreign books, this belief is continually reenforced.

    People in other countries experience American culture as well but they're able to put it in better context. They realize that the American way is just one way of life and leave it at that. For Americans, there is nothing that challenges our lifestyle and our country in any meaningful way.

    Don't know if I explained it very well, but I think that's the just of it. Until something comes along and successfully challenges our culture (France overpowers Hollywood, Indian music becomes a worldwide trend, etc.), we're going to remain a pretty arrogant people.

  • by turbine216 (458014) <turbine216@NosPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:02AM (#2176110)
    Bob: The plans for this craft were written in 3-B, dontchaknow...

    Doug: Yeah, 3 beers and it looks great, eh!

  • by Christopher Thomas (11717) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:49AM (#2176111)
    So this group has figured that in getting to 120km of altitude, the atmosphere is a big part, so a baloon can make the difference. Great, but what use is it in getting us closer to private space ventures, which is what the X prize was supposed to be about?

    It's useful because the same technique lets you build much smaller orbital spacecraft.

    To have enough delta-v to reach orbit with chemical fuels, your rocket has to be mostly fuel (between 90% and 95%, depending on the specific impulse of the fuel).

    The strength-to-weight ratio of your rocket's frame gets better as your rocket gets smaller. This makes it much easier to build, say, a six-foot rocket that's 95% fuel than a 60-foot rocket that's 95% fuel.

    Your rocket will lose energy as it plows through the atmosphere. As you make the rocket bigger, this becomes less of a problem. The balance point is where the cross-sectional mass of your rocket (mass per unit cross-sectional area) becomes greater than the cross-sectional mass of the column of air that it's plowing through.

    At sea level, that's about 10 tons per square yard. Your rocket has to be about 30 feet high to reach the balance point, and would ideally be much larger. This will be a big, expensive rocket, and making it 95% fuel will be difficult.

    Go up 20 miles or so, and you're above 90% of the atmosphere. The tradeoff point happens when your rocket is 3 feet long. Remember how I said building a 6-foot rocket that's 95% fuel is easier than building a 60-foot one? You could build something like this in a garage. All you need to have an orbit-capable mini-rocket is a way to bring the launch platform 20 miles into the air.

    A mini-rocket would still be very commercially viable. Do a web search for "nanosat" and "picosat" to find projects that could be launched on a rocket this size.

    A balloon is a great way to do this. Various types of powered aircraft might be able to make the trip too.

    *That* is the benefit of this type of project - researching a practical launch platform that could be used for small, orbit-capable rockets.
  • by John Carmack (101025) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @09:56PM (#2176112)
    Taking things one step at a time is critical for success.

    We have a pretty clear plan of attack to take us to X-Prize level vehicles. There will be several intermediate vehicles to learn from along the way, but I am pretty confident that we can do it, and that I can pay for it. The regulatory approval is still uncertain. Things get much more questionable after that.

    The next step would be using the X-Prize vehicle as a booster for a upper stage(s) that launch a microsat into orbit. That requires many times for dV, and the regulatory environment, telemetry, and logistics become a lot more challenging. This would get fairly expensive, because making a reusable upper stage(s) is a whole new level of problem, and you just can't test a lot of the systems without going all the way. Even on a shoestring, it could easily get to $100k for each attempt, after you factor everything in. Realistically, it will take a lot of attempts to learn everything you need to know. A lot of people will talk about how straightforward it is, but I have a healthy respect for the challenges. Smart money probably wouldn't bet on any "garage shop" getting to orbit, but it certainly isn't impossible.

    After that, you could either work towards reusable upper stages, or scale everything up to the point you could try to orbit a passenger or a semi-useful LEO satellite.

    Sure, if all that works out, I would love to make a moon shot, but that qualifies as day-dreaming, not planning. The idea that Dennis Wingo has floated recently about M class asteroids rich in platinum group metals possibly being able to have survived impact on the moon without vaporizing under some conditions is Very Very Interesting.

    The extent of my "business planning" for the rockets is along the lines of "If you actually make something really, really cool, you will wind up making money on it somehow". Hopelessly naive? Possibly. We'll see. I hate being involved in business, so we would probably just partner with some of the existing companies interested in suborbital rides or sounding rocket business.

    In the short term, watch for us getting a man off the ground in the upscaled lander frame within a couple months.

    On topic: I think pretty highly of the DaVinci project, and I would say they are definitely one of the leading contenders. Brian Feeney talks about some technical issues on open mailing lists, which is a good sign. My biggest concern for them would be that, from my experience with JP Aerospace, getting two successful rockoon launches off within the 14 days required by the X-Prize is going to involve a good sized helping of luck.

    John Carmack
  • by Aerog (324274) on Thursday August 02, 2001 @11:18AM (#2176113) Homepage
    Firstly, it mentions Brian Feeney as Canada's first civilian astronaut, not the first, but that's just really technicalities.

    The important thing is that Canada's finally using some of our precious few research dollars to do something that we should have been working on for quite some time. The benefits are clear and many:

    The mission uses less fuel, since overcoming the first half can be done with a reusable balloon.

    With the advantages of the balloon, it should be less of a problem as to where the launch site is, thus eliminating the need to ship everything to the deep south

    We can finally paint a space vehicle red and white and have an onboard beer-cooler, potentially powered By the engines [asciimation.co.nz] if we get the Kiwis onboard.

    It saves on having to pay NASA for payload capacity to run our countless zero-G experiments

    The X prize is potentially more than the entire gov't-funded budget.

    Hell, this is exactly what I want to do with an Engineering degree!

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