This week @ULSF we’re working on the more conventional end of our problem set, spacecraft budgets.  Having taken a look into the fundamental elements, materials and propulsion, we’re cycling back to sizing issues to have a framework for strength of materials and efficiencies of propulsion.

To do this we need an objective mission and flight design. 

The proposed flight profile is a space plane for a conventional take off and landing and flight to and from FL600 (60,000′ / 18.3 km).  We need a return capability in order to test systems and materials. 

For the moment we’re proceeding under the expectation that (1)
conventional flight will be feasible, and (2) that this will give us a
path of least resistancefor space access.  Both are open questions, but that’s the bet for the design iteration.

The mission scenario is for releasing and retrieving a ping pong ball on orbit.  To fly up one day at sunrise, release the ball, and return — landing in daylight.  And then to fly up again the next day to capture the ball on orbit, and return. 

We like this objective for a number of reasons, but perhaps most importantly because its achievement will prove an initial capability for space navigation with respect to the terrestrial surface.  A good starting point for more advanced missions including the Moon.

Given these objectives we can get into modeling for feasibility and requirements.  And as well, we get into the motivating subjects like what does it all look like and what will it cost.

The Ping Pong Budget is as follows.

  • Sphere, 44mm diameter (OD)
  • Volume 33.5cc
  • Mass 33.5 grams

It’s fun to imagine sending a satellite by postal mail for launch processing.  A vibration test.  The satellite has to work when it gets here.