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 Aspirespace Rocket Engineering Society

Swift single-seat spaceplane (Mark 5)

Ever since the Xprize competition was running, We've been inspired to design craft that could perform a suborbital flight to greater than 100 Kilometres apogee (the highest height achieved in the up-down trajectory).

100 Kilometres marks the official boundary of Space.

In order to design something that had a chance of ever being built, we simplified the mission to a single-person craft that was only partly reusable: a craft carried to high altitude by gas balloon prior to launch from the balloon.

Our initial goal is to launch a radio-controlled scale model of the Swift under hybrid power from a very high-altitude weather-balloon for charity.

A video of the maiden flight of a small flying Mk 3 test model can be seen here (double-click on the icon); our thanks to John Bonsor for his technical expertise fusing up the catapult release mechanism that fired the model off its A-frame carrier rocket at apogee.

swift maiden flight.mp4

The Swift model glided gently to the ground in a shallow turn. Despite the anhedral (negative dihedral) the turn was stable: the angle of bank remained constant as predicted (spiral neutrality).

More details of the Swift project can be found in the following downloadable Powerpoint presentation (updated April 2017): Swift_project  

A Swift 5 radio-controlled model debuted at the International Rocket Week in Scotland, and flew well after separating from its rocket booster. It needed slightly increased tipfin area to cope with a more rearward C.G. than earlier marks:

The craft will use an uprated version of our nitrous oxide hybrids and will be launched off the North coast of Scotland, to re-enter and glide to any airstrip or beach within glide range.

Simulations show that 600 litres of nitrous oxide, which equates to a tank one metre in diameter, is enough to reach Space! (120 Kilometres apogee).

The craft incorporates a sharp nose, and underside concavity, and the forward part of the wings slides forwards to reveal sharp leading-edges during re-entry. This allows the craft to Waveride during the pullup manoeuvre from vertical fall to horizontal glide during re-entry: maximising supersonic lift significantly reduces the re-entry 'gees' suffered, as well as the maximum airspeeds and heating encountered.

As you can see, we've incorporated stabilising 'feathers' as on Spaceship One and Two which was designed by Burt Rutan (my hero since childbirth). We didn't invent the parachute either, but it would be foolish not to have one; both Rutan's feathers and the parachute are fundamental additions that greatly enhance safety on this type of vehicle.

Swift Mk 5 has now been designed as shown above: it features a larger cockpit with smaller windows (but the same view), redesigned feathers, and a lower drag fuselage and nose. It also features a more rearward vehicle C.G. which reduces C.G. travel during the rocket burn as propellant is ejected out the nozzle.