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Da Vinci Project

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The da Vinci Project is a privately-funded, volunteer-staffed attempt to launch a reusable manned suborbital spacecraft. It was a contender for the Ansari X Prize for the first non-governmental reusable manned spacecraft. The project is based in Ontario, Canada and led by Brian Feeney. Following sponsorship, it is now officially known by the unwieldy title of The Golden Palace.com Space Program Powered by the da Vinci Project.

Contents

Crew

  • Vladimir Kudriavtsev, Team Leader, Engineering and R&D
  • Brian Feeney, Da Vinci Project Team Leader
  • Max Buneta, System Analysis and Design
  • James Porcher, Ground Operations
  • Asier Ania, Thermal Analyst
  • Michael Trauttmansdorff, System Design and CAD
  • Ta-Liang Hsu, Stress Analyst
  • Marek Krzeminski, Dynamics and Control
  • Kalman Rooz, Senior Consultant

Design

The project's design concept calls for a small rocket-powered spacecraft to be air launched from a helium balloon at an altitude of about 24 km. The project has therefore built both the spacecraft and the launching balloon and can be described as manned rockoon.

Spacecraft

Note: some of this information is from an earlier version of the design, and so may be inaccurate.

The spacecraft, Wild Fire, is predominantly cylindrical, with a diameter of 1.42 m and overall length of 4.88 m. It has a crew capsule at one end, rocket motor at the other, and propellant tanks between.

The crew capsule is spherical, with a diameter of 1.42 m. It is designed to accommodate three humans in a pressurised atmosphere, but the crew will wear pressure suits. The capsule can separate from the remainder of the craft if necessary, and has its own emergency parachute. There are sixteen large windows, covering most of the front half of the capsule, providing a clear view.

The spacecraft has a hybrid rocket motor, with solid hydroxy-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB, or rubber) fuel and liquid nitrous oxide oxidiser. The nozzle is steerable.

There is also a cold gas reaction control system, using helium propellant.

The craft uses an autopilot originally developed for turbine aircraft, and can also be flown manually. Both the autopilot and manual controls can control both the RCS system and the engine gimbals.

In the original design, during reentry, the vehicle deploys a ballute, an inflated conical balloon that makes the vehicle aerodynamically stable, provides drag, and acts as a heat shield. The ballute would remain inflated until landing, where it cushions the impact. Between 7 km and 3 km altitude the vehicle would also deploy a parafoil, which is used both to slow descent and to steer to the landing zone. There would also be a backup parachute for the spacecraft, in addition to a separate parachute for the separable crew capsule.

By 2003, the design had been revised for a more simple design: the ballute concept was abandoned, and the crew capsule and propulsion stage would separate and independently descend with parachutes.

Balloon

The balloon is helium-filled, fully reusable, and piloted.

History and status

The project was established in 1996. It is named after Leonardo da Vinci, who, among innumerable other inventions, was the first recorded person to design an aircraft. The project is staffed entirely by volunteers, about 600 so far.

The project unveiled their spacecraft, Wild Fire, on August 5 2004 at a hangar at Downsview Airport in Toronto. At this point it was a contender for the Ansari X Prize, and Tier One had just given notice of their planned competitive flights. When announcing the unveiling, the da Vinci Project also appealed for funds to fly Wild Fire. GoldenPalace.com stepped forward with approximately 500,000 (presumably Canadian) dollars, and the project immediately gave the required 60 day notice that they would make Ansari X Prize competitive flights.

The da Vinci Project initially announced that it would fly first on October 2 2004, launching from Kindersley, Saskatchewan. This was only three days after the first expected X Prize flight, by the Tier One project, on September 29 2004. However, on September 23 2004 the da Vinci project determined that they would not be ready in time, and the launch would be delayed by at least a few days. Tier One won the X Prize on October 4 2004, before the da Vinci Project flew at all.

It is planned that the first da Vinci Project spaceflight will carry a famous soccer ball which was bought by GoldenPalace.com in July 2004 and which they are exhibiting on tour. The ball is famous for its use in the 2004 European Football Championship, where David Beckham missed a kick from the penalty mark using the ball as part of England's quarter-final defeat to the host nation Portugal.

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