Vulture 2 launched planned for New Mexico - rocket powered spaceplane
Tom Spendlove posted on September 15, 2014 |

The Special Projects Bureau in London is scheduled to launch the world's first 3d printed, rocket powered aircraft from Spacecraft American this fall. The team is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the launch to relocate to New Mexico after a disappointing series of events canceled the planned launch in Spain.



LOHAN (Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator) has a four phase launch plan. Vulture 2 is the name of the aircraft, and during Phase 1 it is raised to altitude by a meteorological balloon. Phase 2 sees the Vulture fire its rockets to climb even higher and then Phase 3 begins the descent back down, controlled by GPS sensors and autopilot control.


When the balloon finally bursts during Phase 4 the launch system and rig descend by parachute. A GPS tracker inside the rig allows the recovery team to collect it.


The LOHAN project is amazing in scope. Seven previous high altitude launches have already been achieved. Engineering highlights are the team's ability to get a rocket motor to fire at low temperature and low pressure, and the construction of the launch platform that is itself launched with the Vulture 2.


Southampton University postgraduate students designed the entire craft, with support from The Register, Flashpoint Fireworks, Rock Seven Location Technology, the Edge Research Laboratory and 3d Robotics. Full coverage of the project can be found with The Register's website.


World experts in the field of UAVs and high altitude ballooning are involved in the LOHAN project. The team has a great sense of humor and the attitude of carefully measured caution while always having fun is present throughout their promotional material.


Planning and documentation of the undertaking are all over the web and it's great to see that the project is almost ready to launch. The Kickstarter campaign ends on September 21 and as of this writing needs around £3,000 to be fully funded.


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