Encyclopedia Astronautica
Industrial Sounding System



ismosdra.jpg
Mosquito - Dragon
Industrial Sounding System Mosquito and Dragon projectiles
Credit: Columbiad
Canadian gun-launched sounding rocket. Columbiad Launch Services announced itself publicly in August 2003. They were then developing a high-volume Industrial Sounding System based on gun propulsion technology, which was scheduled to be fully operational by late 2004. This would also serve as a prototype for a follow-on orbital gun-based launch system.

The Industrial Sounding System

The Industrial Sounding System (ISS) was a fully portable gun launch system capable of providing low-cost sounding flights from any road-accessible site on Earth. Economical glide probes were to be able to carry payloads to altitudes of more than 100 km . Rocket-assisted probes were to carry payloads to 250 km or more. With a normal launch rate of 2 flights an hour, and rapid launch rates of up to 6 flights an hour, this system was capable of providing inexpensive access to space for a wide variety of research projects.

ISS Satellite Launching

The Industrial Sounding System was also a scale prototype for an industrial capacity satellite launching system and was to be used to develop the technologies for satellite launching. Although not intended as a primary launch service, the prototype satellite launching vehicle for the ISS was designed to demonstrate all of the functions of a normal satellite launcher. It would be capable of placing small nano-satelites into low Earth orbit.

Starburst Memorials

Columbiad offered a memorial launching service called Starburst Memorials. Based on their Industrial Sounding System (ISS), Starburst Memorials provided a low-cost, hassle-free means of launching ones cremains into space.

The Industrial Sounding system consists of three tractor units. The first was a flat bed trailer which mounted a custom-designed gun launcher. This was accompanied by two van trailers which contained the launch control and tracking systems and all ancillary equipment needed to conduct a launch.

This system could launch three different flight vehicles:

  • The Arrow was a sleek low drag glide probe vehicle capable of carrying payloads up to 1.5kg and 700cc of volume to altitudes of 100km or more. This low cost vehicle was ideal for experiments which required rapid relaunches to gather multiple data points under varying conditions. It could be flown at a normal launch rate of one every 30 minutes and a rapid launch rate of one every 10 minutes.

    The Arrow had a standard nose ejection feature to expose the payload and could also be equipped to eject the payload module. Payloads could be equipped with a parachute so that they will drift down to Earth slowly which will greatly extendrf the flight time of atmospheric experiments. The ejectable nose cone could be instrumented and equipped with its own parachute, allowing for dual experiments on one flight vehicle.

    Flight times from vehicle launch to splashdown were in the range of 300 seconds and parachute-equipped ejected payloads were able to float down for considerably longer times. (Typically 30 minutes or more depending on the mass of the payload, the size of the parachute and the atmospheric conditions.)

  • The Mosquito was a high capacity base eject glide probe which was able to carry payloads of up to 3 kg and 1500 cc of volume to an altitude of 80 km or more. The base eject option of this probe allowed large payloads to be carried and was particularly useful for carrying larger payloads that would be ejected with a parachute to drift down slowly. The Mosquito was the flight vehicle used for the Starburst and Wayfarer memorial flights. Starburst Memorials provided a low-cost, hassle-free means of launching loved ones cremains into space.
  • The Dragonfly was a large rocket-assisted glide probe designed to carry heavy payloads to satellite altitudes. The Dragonfly was ideal for the rapid development and launch of microgravity or astrophysical experiments. It was capable of carrying payloads of 10kg to 250 km, and lighter payloads to even higher altitudes, with microgravity times on the order of 10 minutes or more.
ISS Satellite Launching

The Industrial Sounding System was also a scale prototype for an industrial capacity satellite launching system and was to be used to develop the technologies for satellite launching. Although not intended as a primary launch service, the prototype satellite launching vehicle for the ISS was designed to demonstrate all of the functions of a normal satellite launcher. It would be capable of placing small nano-satelites into low Earth orbit.

The design specifications for the first industrial satellite launcher called for a minimal satellite mass of 100 kg to low earth orbit. Larger satellite launch systems would be capable of launching up to one ton to low earth orbit.

The system was designed to provide a rapid and economical launch service with a normal launch schedule of 6 launches a day and as many as 100 satellite launches a month for a single launcher. Multiple launchers could be used to increase this capacity as needed.

The industrial capacity satellite launcher was ideal for the low cost launching of small amateur, communications and research satellites. The very high launch volume of this system would be able to support orbital projects not currently considered economical. Some examples of this were:

  • Large satellites assembled from multiple launches, These satellites would have a modular configuration which could include subassemblies such as propulsion modules, solar panels, batteries, momentum wheels, deployable antennas, transceivers, scientific experiments, and other common subsystems. Satellites of this type do not need to have multiple redundant components as replacement modules could be flown within days or even hours of a detected fault. To prevent problems from occurring modules could also be replaced on a regular maintenance schedule and improved technology can be incorporated as it becomes available. Commercially operated satellites of this type could be kept operating under circumstances that commonly disable traditional satellites and with regular maintained launches would be effectively immortal.
  • Satellite refueling to extend life. Many traditional satellites were disabled because they simply run out of fuel for orientation and station keeping even though the rest of the satellite was still substantially functional. Many traditional satellite designs supported the addition of a replaceable propulsion module which would extend their life span. Some satellites currently in orbit could be refitted on orbit to use a replaceable propulsion module.
  • Satellite rescue - Many satellites have been lost simply because they are not launched in to their proper orbit. The addition of an inexpensive docking device to new satellites would allow a rescue vehicle to dock with a stranded satellite and boost it in to a proper orbit saving the satellite and reducing insurance premiums.
  • Space station re-supply - Current and future manned space stations could be simply and economically re-supplied with consumables such as rocket fuels, water, oxygen, food, clothing, and other common supplies. The ISS gun's high launch rate would allow regular and reliable re-supply as well as the ability to quickly send up replacement components or last-minute experiments. This was particularly interesting for the future space tourism plans which would require inexpensive re-supply to remain economically viable.

  • Large space structures - Large space structures such as Solar Power Satellites require very large amounts of simple materials, such as rolls of aluminum sheet to form truss segments. The ISS' high launch rates could supply massive amounts of basic materials on a just-in-time basis with minimal delays, making such projects economical.

  • Planetary exploration - Future journeys to the Moon or mars will require large amounts of basic supplies such as air, water and fuel. This high volume low cost launch system could supply a major percentage of consumables, particularly fuel which constitutes a major percentage of a Lunar or Mars bound space craft's mass.

  • Lunar direct - It was quite practical to launch vehicles directly to the surface of the moon with the ISS launch system. For the most part this lunar launching vehicle would be similar to a LEO launching vehicle but would be modified by reducing the payload and adding additional propulsion stages to send the vehicle on a lunar trajectory and then to slow it down to land on the lunar surface. For very small payloads soft landings will be possible and rough landings with air bags were possible for payloads of about 5 and 10 kg. A similar version of this vehicle could be used to explore asteroids as they pass close to the Earth and perhaps even the moons of Mars.

Payload: 10 kg (22 lb) to a 250 kg altitude.

Location: Ontario.
Status: Cancelled 2003.
Payload: 10 kg (22 lb).
Apogee: 250 km (150 mi).

More... - Chronology...


Associated Countries
See also
  • Gun-launched Artillery dominated military ballistics from the earliest use of gunpowder. In 1865 Jules Verne could only realistically consider a cannon for a moon launch in his influential novel. Even after the rocket established its primacy as a method of accessing space, Canadian Gerald Bull began a life-long struggle to use guns for cheap access to space. His successes could not generate funding to continue. Others since then have pursued the technology, convinced it was the only way for low-cost delivery of payloads to orbit. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
Bibliography
  • Columbiad Launch Services web site, As of November 2003. Web Address when accessed: here.

Home - Browse - Contact
© / Conditions for Use