Evolution of the Spacecraft and
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
da Vinci - Mark ll - Time frame August
CAD Model - Refined concept of Mark l design – new window
Da Vinci Mark ll - Flight Engineering
Prototype – Completed August 2001
Constructed to be a test bed for internal and recovery systems – full
Da Vinci Mark lll - Time frame September
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.