Rick Newlands 2013 - 2017

‘Spacedare’ is a one-man ultralight (microlight) spaceglider (boost-glider) that I’ll fly lying flat on my back and on my stomach cos I can’t sit up for very long. Lying flat allows healthy people to withstand up to 20 gees of acceleration, so I should easily be able to withstand the 4 gees during rocket ascent and the 5 gees of re-entry.

Spacedare is so-named because on the way down the pilot lies prone on his stomach like the pilots in the venerable old British Dan Dare comic, or a hanglider pilot.

I don’t want to suffer more than 5 gees during re-entry because I’m ill. Falling vertically from 120 kilometres, my spacecraft design and simulation software says that I need at least 1 square metre of parachute area for every 45 kilos of spacecraft mass (bizarrely, the bigger the parachute, the less the gees you suffer, which is the complete inverse of what happens at sea level.)

With this acreage of parachute, I’ll perform re-entry very high up in the atmosphere (re-entry will be finished well before I descend into busy airspace), so although I’ll come in at Mach 3.3, the spacecraft will only feel as if it’s flying at 117 knots at sea level, which will soon settle down to a leisurely glide home at 55 knots as if at sea level.

As the cockpit rotates, it will cause sideways lift forces. The airbrakes on the upper and lower surfaces can be moved independantly to aerodynamically counterbalance this lift force to prevent the craft pinwheeling.

General post-re-entry steering is done by electrically-actuated elevons on the wingtip fins. I shall then be flying ‘VFR’ (visual flight rules) which means I have to steer clear of cloud and fog. Turbulator strips on the leading edges of the wings counter the effects of flying at really high altitudes (low Reynolds numbers) which can otherwise cause the airflow over the upper surface of the wing to separate when you don’t want it to.

To allow me to get the best view when in Space, there will be little compressed-gas thrusters at the nose and wingtips to jet me into the correct orientation.

For landing, there will be one or more metal skids/skis (tyres could melt, and I’ve no need to takeoff again) on shock-absorbers.

To see the technical decisions that led to Spacedare see ‘the spacecraft’.

The Spacedare spaceglider:

This picture shows the Spacedare on the way up to Space. I’m inside the lozenge-shaped capsule lying flat on my back looking skyward, as a not very large rocket (shown in yellow) pushes me from below. The wings are vertical underneath me, hitting the airflow at the angle of attack that generates no lift force (zero degrees as I chose a symmetrical aerofoil).

The metal bar-like thing above the yellow tank is a linear aerospike, which is a device that significantly reduces aerodynamic drag at supersonic airspeeds.

On the way down to Earth, an electric motor slowly rotates the cockpit 180 degrees about my middle so that I’m still facing skyward but the wings are now above me.

Now the drag of the sideways cockpit is a help rather than a hindrance, its area adds much useful drag.

There are many shapes of supersonic parachutes. The American Charles Pooley described the use of big airbrakes (barn-doors across the airflow) to slow a spacecraft back in 2005 based on the X15 airbrakes.

Four large airbrakes deploy using electric motors to create lots more drag during re-entry, and to make the craft auto-stable like a shuttlecock: I don’t need to touch the controls, instead just lie back and take the five gees.

The underside of the cockpit is a heatshield: it uses high-temperature resin, and I’m insulated from it.

The booster rocket has long since left us to parachute separately down into the sea.

Just after re-entry, the cockpit rotates 90 degrees so that the wings and I are both aligned (I’m now lying on my stomach in a harness), and the craft becomes a simple delta-wing glider which gently descends to Earth to land on a beach or grass runway.

The glider would be fibreglass and carbon-fibre with high-temperature resistant resin, making a super-stiff sandwich with an aluminium or nomex honeycomb core.

I built a rocket-powered test vehicle to test the concept at speed: launch and ascents were stable with no oscillations despite the draggy capsule (see picture on left) and the Spacedare separated from its booster at altitude and descended in a stable manner.