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Evolution of the Spacecraft and systems

The engineering and analytical process to arrive at the final flight vehicle configuration has been an interesting and informative one. The following takes the reader through the pros and cons associated with the evolving designs. These were not the only concepts considered, but are the ones that received in-depth (and in some cases), detailed design analysis. Many received CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) re-entry analysis as well flight performance profiling using Boeing Autometric Flight Analysis software.

da Vinci Launch Method - Time frame May 1996 – Early 1999

We evaluated many launch platform methods in the context of various rocket designs. We considered the most obvious - ground launched through median to extreme altitude (40,000 meters or 130,000 feet) launch from a floating balloon platform. Other methods considered included, Under the wing of a C-130 Hercules; Ejection out of the back of a C-130, followed by a drogue chute to stabilize, then firing the engines; In the belly of a highly modified Dash 8; Assembling 2 CF-104 Star Fighters together at the mid wing point and hanging the rocket beneath.

At the end of the day we chose a balloon. It offered relatively low construction cost, predictable separation methods already proven, high launch altitude resulting in a smaller rocket subject to minimum dynamic pressure on ascent and a propulsion system about ¼ the size. Our initial selection was a manned hot air balloon about 1,000,000 ft3 in size floated to 12,300 meters or 40,000 feet. After further consultation with balloon expert Per Lindstrand of the UK we decided to go with an unmanned, reusable helium balloon of about 5,000,000 ft3 floated to a higher launch point of 24,400 meters or 80,000 feet.







da Vinci - Mark l - Time frame Early 1999 – August 2000

The first detailed design of the da Vinci rocket was 1.22 meters (4 feet) in dia and about 6.1 meters or 20 feet long. It was deigned to launch from 40,000 feet. Detachable fins were added to provide stability in the early part of the fight. Reentry would be stabilized with the ballute seen below. The crew capsule was a sphere – pretty snug for 3 people.




da Vinci - Mark l – Reentry Ballute Concept - Time frame March 2000

From the beginning of the project we’ve attempted to create a simple deign. Our mission profile was, float to a high launch altitude and use a ballute (high drag device) to minimize the heat of reentry and provide passive static stability.



da Vinci - Mark l - Ballute CFD Analysis - Time frame March 2000

First Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) reentry analysis of the ballute



da Vinci - Mark ll - Time frame August 2000

CAD Model - Refined concept of Mark l design – new window design


Da Vinci Mark ll - Flight Engineering Prototype – Completed August 2001

Constructed to be a test bed for internal and recovery systems – full scale prototype



Da Vinci Mark lll - Time frame September 2001

This design was an attempt to address a fundamental problem with the ballute – simply stated, what if the ballute didn’t deploy. We created a conical shape that we thought would give us passive stability if the ballute did not deploy. It had a high surface area to dissipate the heat of reentry – 2.44 meters (8 feet in dia.). It nevertheless still had a tendency to nose over. This is within the context that the primary RCS has failed to self-right the vehicle.






da Vinci - Mark lV – Code Name B-29 - Time frame October 2001

The B-29 and took the original concept (Mark 1), shorten it to 5.18 meters (17 feet) and increased it’s diameter to 1.98 meters (6.5 feet).











da Vinci - Mark V – Code Name Tiger Shark - Time frame May 2002




Da Vinci Project – Wild Fire Mark Vl – Time Frame 2003 to present

These images show the final evolution of the rocket's design. After exploring the very different Tiger Shark design, it was decided to move back to the B 29 design but with one major change. The effort up until now was to try to bring the rocket down in one piece using active ballutes to stabilize on reentry. It was decided to separate the capsule from the main rocket propulsion section and bring it down by itself. The low centre of gravity in the spherical capsule allows it to right itself. The propulsion section has fins in the final layout that stabilize it. The mid section was later permanently joined onto the propulsion section and has a reentry thermal shield. Both pieces of space flight hardware are recovered via parachute and airbags for reassembly and reuse.


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