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Balloon Launched Rockets

Posted by: george - Tue Jun 01, 2004 7:03 pm
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Balloon Launched Rockets 
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Post Balloon Launched Rockets   Posted on: Tue Jun 01, 2004 7:03 pm
I'm interested in rockets that are launched from high altitude balloons, like ILAT's and Da Vinci Proyect's XPrize entries. I thought the concept of puting the rocket in the air at high altitude to save fuel consumption was a new one, but I've found out it's quite old.

I was specially intrigued as to how to avoid the rocket crashing against the balloon. Da Vinci's rocket starts at an angle and then straightens up it's trayectory. I don't know what ILAT does (their Web Site is hard to access).

I'm currently reading W.Von Braun & Willy Ley's "Conquest of the Moon and Across the Space Frontier" and in Heinz Gartmann's prologue (in the German and Spanish one volume editions) I found out about the Far Side balloon launched rockets of 1957.

The Far Side had a first stage made of 4 Recruit rockets, the segond had a single Recruit. The third had 4 smaller "Arrow II" rockets, and the 4 and last stage, a single Arrow and about 2 kilograms of measurement equipment.

The Far Side's weight was under 900 kilograms and was transported to a an altitude of 30.000 meters for launch by a polietilene balloon. THe balloon's weight was 700 kilograms and could support a one ton payload. It was destroyed at the momento of launch, so the rocket did not have to avoid a collision.

Stage 4 reached a maximum velocity of 27.000 kilometers per hour and an altitud of 6.400 kilometers. The proyect's maximum altitude was 8.000 kilometers.

Far Side was one of America's responces to Sputnik.

Heinz Gartmann's prolouge also mentions a balloon experiment at the start of space medicine science, designed to study the posibility of manned space flight. On 19 August, 1957, David G. Simmond's, an aviation doctor, director of the Biology department of the institute for space medicine of Alamo Gordo, traveled to an altitude of 34.000 meters in an airtight ship that hung under a 93 meter long helium balloon. He was exposed to cosmic radiation for 32 hours breathing recicled air.

I'm sure this old experiences from the earliest yeras of the space race influenced ILAT and Da Vinci. Anyone else has more info on this technology?


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 02, 2004 1:30 pm
google JP Aerospace. They are, presently, the leaders in rockoon design.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 02, 2004 2:16 pm
bad_astra wrote:
google JP Aerospace. They are, presently, the leaders in rockoon design.


Thanks, their Ascender looks pretty interesting


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 07, 2004 3:10 pm
Well, I don't want to discourage anyone but my experience with JP Aero was less than stellar. When I lived in Vegas I e-mailed them several times, offering my assistance in the communications field (I am a ham radio operator). Never did they respond. No judgements here but I found it odd that on their website they asked for volunteers and computer hardware, both of which I offered, and they didn't even respond.

On the subject of balloons, I did some research on this type of launch platform and found it quite intriguing. My plan was to build a multi-use platform, hoisted to about 100,000 feet by four helium balloons. Several different payloads could be attached to the platform, including a tourist gondola, research vehicle, and the X-Prize Launch vehicle.

I spoke with several high-altitude balloon companies and they stated that it is indeed possible to build and operate such a platform/vehicle but since I would be hoisting live humans, they were reluctant.

I also spoke to a US aerospace research analyst who said the plan was valid and could have high potential in tourism, research and even defense.

The Sad Ending: I am by no means a marketing guru. I had the entrance fee but could not generate any other interest or investors. The balloons, Helium and all ground launch support hardware for my plan was going to cost in excess of $20M USD. Since I am just a lowly computer programmer with no "contacts" and a busy personal schedule, the plan faded into obscurity.

That's just my 2 cents worth... Its all I can afford right now! :lol:

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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 07, 2004 5:18 pm
kc7rad wrote:

On the subject of balloons, I did some research on this type of launch platform and found it quite intriguing. My plan was to build a multi-use platform, hoisted to about 100,000 feet by four helium balloons. Several different payloads could be attached to the platform, including a tourist gondola, research vehicle, and the X-Prize Launch vehicle.

I spoke with several high-altitude balloon companies and they stated that it is indeed possible to build and operate such a platform/vehicle but since I would be hoisting live humans, they were reluctant.

I also spoke to a US aerospace research analyst who said the plan was valid and could have high potential in tourism, research and even defense.

The Sad Ending: I am by no means a marketing guru. I had the entrance fee but could not generate any other interest or investors. The balloons, Helium and all ground launch support hardware for my plan was going to cost in excess of $20M USD. Since I am just a lowly computer programmer with no "contacts" and a busy personal schedule, the plan faded into obscurity.


Hope you can ressurect your idea in the future!
Marketing is clearly where you have to find help first.
As for hoisting live humans, maybe you could propose first an unmaned air vehicle configuration. Balloon UAVs are in use now. A high altitude variant maybe could spark interest.
Good Luck


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Post    Posted on: Mon Jun 07, 2004 5:59 pm
kc7rad wrote:
Well, I don't want to discourage anyone but my experience with JP Aero was less than stellar. When I lived in Vegas I e-mailed them several times, offering my assistance in the communications field (I am a ham radio operator). Never did they respond.


Too bad they did not reply, Ken... I looked at their site---overall, it sounds interesting.

By the way, I am also a longtime ham radio operator (WA4NUO). Just got my license renewed, so I'm good to 2014 now. :wink:

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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 08, 2004 1:59 pm
Perhaps JP was working on some black project (They are doing stuff for DoD now), and could no longer take volunteers. Their webpage is not the most frequently updated. I am also a fan of balloon launched rockets. I think the main problem is having a stable platform at altitude, but obviously that is doable.


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Post    Posted on: Tue Jun 08, 2004 3:36 pm
bad_astra wrote:
Perhaps JP was working on some black project (They are doing stuff for DoD now), and could no longer take volunteers. Their webpage is not the most frequently updated. I am also a fan of balloon launched rockets. I think the main problem is having a stable platform at altitude, but obviously that is doable.


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Speaking of stability, how do you avoid a ballon like Da Vincy's from just blowing away with the wind? Is it some tipe of Blimp?


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 2:28 pm
You tether it.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 2:52 pm
bad_astra wrote:
You tether it.


I don't know the english word TETHER.
What is it? You put a rope and anchor the ballon maybe?


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 3:17 pm
yes a tether is a rope or similar holding something fixed in place

on baloons, rockoons etc, tethers pose their own problems

tethers for normal baloons, dirigbles, and blimps are only used in the launch and capture fase. there are some permanently tethered blimps used as low altitude radar stations (along the us-mexican border) in the same way as barrage baloons was used in WWII by the allies - but using tethering for a baloon or rockoon going to let's say 8 km is beyond practical for a number of reasons (material strenght, material weight, weighing down the tethers end at ground, and keeping it from moving, making sure the tether doesn't cause flight accidents, safety in case the tether(s) get loose or break, and probably even more), and with such lenght it wouldn't be that much help guiding the baloon either, the wind pretty much carries it anywhere even if the tethers were spaced really far appart (spacing them far apart also multiplies the aforementioned concerns).

for rockoons tethers can interfere with any release design as well

so tethers isn't a solution to the wind problem


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 3:30 pm
I agree, tethers are a no go for rockoon launches. It will either be a case of picking a launch site/window with virtually no wind, (I have no idea where that could be), or having an unmanned airship that keeps station off GPS coordinates. Frankly I am not convinced that balloon launches are practical as a goer anyway.

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Post Tethered Balloons   Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 5:42 pm
I don't know what the current altitude record for tethered balloons is. I know that the altitude recrord for a kite is 31,000+ feet set by a German in 1919, and I think it's safe to assume that modern fibers can greatly increase possible tethering length. In fact with carbon nannotube fibers I think it would be very possible in the near future to have balloon stations the size of small villiages tethered up in the mesophere.

As for difficulties in launching a balloon and then harming the tether line, that is a problem that can be worked out. The balloon can either be dropped, then manouverd away from the platform to a safe distance, possibly with cold gas jets.


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Post    Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 5:48 pm
Yes thetering won't do the job. but rockets have been launched from ballons, so there has to be an answer better than just waiting for faborable wind. And wind should bloww at different speed/direction at high altitude compared to low altitude. I supose an unmaned motor blimp could work.

I think rocket ballooning is a good idea because you save yourself the cost of the first stage and it's fuel and the launch pad might be simpler as your rocket can be smaller (and hopefully cheaper)


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Post Re: Tethered Balloons   Posted on: Wed Jun 09, 2004 5:59 pm
bad_astra wrote:
I don't know what the current altitude record for tethered balloons is. I know that the altitude recrord for a kite is 31,000+ feet set by a German in 1919, and I think it's safe to assume that modern fibers can greatly increase possible tethering length. In fact with carbon nannotube fibers I think it would be very possible in the near future to have balloon stations the size of small villiages tethered up in the mesophere.

As for difficulties in launching a balloon and then harming the tether line, that is a problem that can be worked out. The balloon can either be dropped, then manouverd away from the platform to a safe distance, possibly with cold gas jets.


I think it's plausible, but as a longer term proyect. Maybe it could help develop the technology for a "beanstalk" for space launch (those extra long theters that hook up with a LOE satelite an could be used to launch space craft, maybe accelerating them with mag lev). Interesting concept but the capital expence would be enourmous at this time.

Cold gas jets on balloons sounds easy enough.


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