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A da Vinci Project Update for Canadian Town

Published by admin on Fri Oct 15, 2004 2:03 pm
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chabot imageBy Tariq Malik
Staff Writer
posted: 15 October 2004
7:00 a.m. ET

Canadian rocketeers hoping to launch a privately built spacecraft from the small Saskatchewan town of Kindersley met with community officials Thursday, updating residents on the mission’s progress and reaffirming their intent to fly.

Dav1d [sic] Grossman, ground operations team leader for the Toronto-based GoldenPalace.com/da Vinci Project, updated residents and officials near his team’s launch site this week while coordinating recovery and emergency plans for an anticipated suborbital launch two weeks overdue.

“Everybody here is still very enthusiastic,” Grossman said of Kindersley and its surrounding towns in a telephone interview. “We really need their participation.”

The da Vinci team, led by Toronto’s Brian Feeney, originally planned to launch its suborbital manned spacecraft Wild Fire Mark VI on Oct. 2, but the flight was put on an as-yet-indefinite hold.

“I would say that, just like they are, we are waiting for a new launch date,” Kindersley Town Administrator Kim Hauta said via telephone. “We had a fairly decent plan in place for Oct. 2, and some of those things won’t happen now due to the change.”

A cabaret and other community entertainment programs were time sensitive and could not be put on hold without a definite launch date, he added.

Feeney, who will pilot Wild Fire’s initial flight, has told SPACE.com his team remains determined to launch despite losing the $10 million Ansari X Prize suborbital spaceflight competition. That contest, which challenged teams to privately build a reusable, three-person suborbital spacecraft, was won on Oct. 4 in Mojave, California by Burt Rutan and his SpaceShipOne launch vehicle.

But Feeney has also said a final launch date won’t be announced until the da Vinci team has completely arrived in Kindersley, which is expected to be at least seven days before the intended space shot.

Under the current flight plan, an unmanned helium balloon will hoist Wild Fire into the Kindersley sky from the town’s local airport, carrying it into launch position at about 80,000 feet. There, the spacecraft’s tether will be released and its hybrid rocket engine ignited. The spacecraft and Feeney should experience a few minutes of weightless before reentering the atmosphere and parachuting back to Earth.

Two weeks after missing their first launch target, Grossman said plans are still coming together for what is hoped to be the first manned space launch in Canada but would not say if a specific date has been set. Over the last few days he has met with police and emergency services personnel from Kindersley, as well as from nearby Elrose – where Wild Fire is expected to land under its flight plan – to discuss ground and safety operations.

“We’ve got a man in the capsule,“ Grossman said. “We want to make sure Brian comes down safe and sound.”

Meanwhile, Kindersley officials were encouraged by Grossman’s arrival and presentations to both residents and city officials. On Oct. 14, Grossman gave the Kindersley Town Council a mission briefing and met with about 50 townspeople during a public meeting a night earlier.

Hauta said Grossman’s personal presence was a welcome sight for a town that has been eagerly awaiting the Wild Fire launch. The town has been given the nickname Cape Kindersley for the launch, and souvenir chairs and other goods are already available from local vendors.

“The only reservations we have is with the attendance level,” said Kindersley Mayor Michael Hankewich, adding the weather in Kindersley will only get colder and could limit spectator turnout. “But our hopes are high and we’re rooting for the launch and for [Feeney] too.”

“This is a big thing, not only for Kindersley but for Saskatchewan too,” Hankewich said.

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