Headlines > News > JP Aerospace Information update AND JPA will compete for the Bigelow American Space prize

JP Aerospace Information update AND JPA will compete for the Bigelow American Space prize

Published by Sigurd De Keyser on Tue Jan 25, 2005 1:11 am
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We contacted John Powell, President JP Aerospace for the latest development information about his project.
Here is the first info we received:

2004 at a Glance
Away 24 Dancing with Wolves

We tested both the command system and the internal network of the Ascender Airship.
January in the high Nevada desert is always a bit chilly. The entire Black Rock lakebed was covered in snow. The launch was conducted from a flat out- crop that overlooks the lakebed 300 feet above the desert floor. A polyethylene zero-pressure balloon carried the vehicle to over 100,000 feet.

Sixty PongSats were on board including a computer-controlled PongSat that tested solar cells at high altitude.

Retrieval was its own adventure. The vehicle landed far from any accessible road. A recovery team made a three-hour bouncing, sliding off road ride followed by a nine hour hike guided by GPS. After experiencing darkness, 27 degree temperature, mud, snow, and two wolf packs, Away 24 was recovered.

Ascender 1.0 Float Test

This vehicle is big. The length is 175 feet and the height reaches forty-seven feet, and that’s just sitting on the ground. In spite of having a hanger big enough to fit a 747, we could only fly the Ascender seven feet off the ground without bumping the ceiling. This low altitude ‘flight’ gave us the chance to test all the structural elements of the vehicle.

Thank you Parallax for another year of great support!

JPA uses Parallax Basic Stamp computers in everything we send into the sky.
As our systems have grown more complex, we have gone from Stamp 1s to Stamp 2s and we’re now incorporating the cool new Javelin Stamp.

Parallax’s generous support helps make America’s OTHER Space Program possible.

Away 25 High Altitude Test Flight

The helium pump controllers were still giving us fits. We finally got a fix and needed to run one to 100,000 feet to verify all was well, sent in Away 25. Away 25 used the new compact High Rack frame This configuration definitely has an alien space probe look to it. We used the mission to also test several new Ascender and Dark Sky Station systems.

The team was in the zone like athletes at the Olympics. From equipment setup to recovery, this was the smoothest mission JPA has ever flown.

On launch, the vehicle climbed up at 600 feet per minute. Near peak altitude, it climbed a little faster at 800 feet per minute. Away 25 was heavier than most High Racks and climbed slower. The flight time was nearly two hours longer than most High Rack missions. The 343 PongSat experiments on- board got the best exposure to the edge of space than any other mission so far.

At 96,050 feet, one of the balloons burst. Away 25 began to slowly descend. At 20,000 feet, the vehicle was over a valley between two mountain ranges. More importantly, it was near a mining road. The command was sent to release the balloons and deploy the parachute.

Away 25 took some truly spectacular images. Check them out at the PongSat.com website.

MicroSat Launcher Rocket Satellite Deployment System Test Flight

The ML flew as part of a program for the Air Force. The rocket deployed a test satellite build by Stanford University. The satellite was used to test the payload ejection system. The rocket flew to 10,000 feet and ejected the satellite. The satellite then landed by parachute. The program explored the potential of balloon rocket launches and was conducted though the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards AFB.

Ascender 1.0 Flight test

Sometimes great progress also includes great disappointments. After nearly two months in Texas, high winds severely damaged the vehicle during ground preparation. The vehicle has been turned over to Air Force. They will be conducting test flights with it in the future.

Mini Comet 3 Flight

From the huge to micro, another Mini-Comet took to the sky. The Mini-Comet is a 15-ounce instrument package carried aloft by balloon. This was a training mission for some new team members. Mini-Comets give new folks a chance to learn every aspect of a mission on a small scale. The team built the balloon, control system, camera actuator, beacon system and housing. The Mini-Comet flew to 20,000 feet and fifteen miles down range.

What’s coming up in 2005

Away 26

Away 26 will be a High Rack balloon mission. It will lift off from the Black Rock desert to explore the edge of space. This mission will include live video and a new spread spectrum telemetry system. On board will be over two hundred student experiments. Away 26 will carry carbon nanotubes in support of Liftport’s space elevator efforts. Winter missions are always tough to schedule. We hope for a beginning of February liftoff.

Major ML Rocket Upgrade

The ML rocket will go through a major upgrade this year. The first big change is the size. The upper stage will grow from six inches in diameter and twelve feet long to eight inches in diameter and fifteen feet long. The larger diameter allows larger motors to be used. In spite of the larger size, the empty weight of the vehicle will actually decrease. The new rocket will also get a full electronic upgrade.

ML ‘Classic’ Mach glider deployment flight

We are building one more ML block 4 rocket. This rocket will be used as part of the Mach glider program. Mach gliders are mini-Ascenders (ten to thirty feet long) that are deployed by rocket. Mach gliders will be release and inflated at attitude from 10,000 to 400,000 feet. These flights are a critical part of ATO development. The first flight will deploy a canister at 10,000 feet that will release and inflate a balloon.

Ascender 90

Ascender 90 is the next airship in the ATO program. At ninety feet long this craft is less than half the size of Ascender 1. Ascender 90 will be built with all the lessons learn from the previous vehicles. This test bed airship will pave the way for Ascender 200.


The PongSat program continues to attract students from around the world. Over 6000 student have participated so far flying nearly 1600 experiments. A PongSat is an experiment that fits inside of a ping pong ball. We are continually amazed at what people come up with to fly in their ping pong ball.

If you haven’t flown your PongSat yet, sign up and head to space with us! Our goal is to fly over 1000 PongSat this year.

Check out the ‘Top Ten Reasons’ Tee Shirts at the PongSat Store (www.pongsat.com).

The Cool Truck

Our newest piece of tech will be the ‘Cool Truck’. The ‘Cool Truck’ is a pickup truck equipped with a cryogenic (liquid) helium system. The liquid helium will be flashed into a gas, warmed, and then used in our balloons and airships. This system will eliminate the need to carry dozens of heavy helium tanks to the launch site.

JPA will compete for the Bigelow Space Prize

The Bigelow prize, also known as America’s Space Prize, is 50 million dollars to the first team to fly five people to orbit in a reusable vehicle. Similar to the X-prize, the mission must be flown twice in a sixty-day period. Bigelow Aerospace needs such a launch system to support its new inflated space station.

The rules for the contest are available over here; Hang on, the next five years are going to be intense!

Airship To Orbit

In April at the Space Access Conference in Phoenix, we announced the Airship To Orbit (ATO) program. ATO has been behind our development for a long time and it was time to show the world. Our announcement has created quite a buzz and a great deal of discussion. The most asked question is how are going to do it? The answer is, of course, as we always have; one solder joint at time, one Saturday build session at a time, one mission at a time until we’re there.

There is a pdf file describing the program and an animation available on the JPA web site.

Transatmospheric Ascender
800 feet long, constructed at 100,000 feet.

The Transatmospheric Ascender is one of several intermediate vehicles in the ATO program.

Hats, Tee shirts and memberships online

The JPA and the PongSat store are both open for business.
Wear cool JPA gear and support America’s OTHER Space program!

Final Note

2004 was an exciting year for private space development. 2005 is really going to be spectacular, and JP Aerospace will be in the thick of it.

Our over eight flown missions have given us the depth of experience and knowledge to keep up with the big dogs in this new space race. With manned missions are now on the horizon and challenging flights on the schedule, we don’t expect to get much sleep this year, but we do intend to have a lot of fun.

We remain committed to creating an independent space program. Its purpose is to bring down the high cost of space travel and to make the process accessible to regular people. This means continuing to build a strong volunteer-based program, continuing to provide as many people as humanly possible from students to firefighters, to the just curious, direct access to the edge of space through PongSats and continuing to push the envelope of alternate access to space.

Transatmospheric Ascender during maximum performance test flight.

This mission will take the crew to 400,000 feet at a velocity of Mach 10.

Contact information:

JP Aerospace
2530 Mercantile Drive, Suite I
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742



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