TORONTO, Ontario - Canada's da Vinci Project unveiled its full-scale engineering prototype rocket, which represents a major milestone in its attempt to win the X-Prize, the international 'New Race to Space' competition. The engineering prototype rocket will be on public display at the Toronto Aviation & Aircraft Show from May 4 until May 6 (www.aviationshow.com).
The full-scale engineering prototype rocket is 7.3 metres long (24 ft) and weighs approximately 500 kilograms (1,100 lbs). Building the prototype enabled the Canadian team to perfect its construction techniques. The prototype rocket will now be used to test its re-entry system, which will include dropping it from over 10,000 feet to examine the deployment of its ballute and parafoil systems. The Da Vinci Team anticipates these tests to begin in early summer.
"This rocket combines ingenuity with imagination and represents one giant step towards realizing our ultimate goal - affordable space travel," said Brian Feeney, who will pilot the team's space vehicle to a minimum altitude of 100 km, or 62 miles. "This accomplishment underscores the amazing talents and innovative spirit found in Canada."
The da Vinci Project has made significant progress since its official entry into the X-Prize last summer according to Operations Director Marc De Jordy. The propulsion team successfully completed the final flight test of the rocket's engine and flight guidance systems in California earlier this year. This represents the first successful testing of propulsion and flight guidance systems at near gross weight of any X-Prize competitor.
The Canadian team, one of 20 entries in the $10 million (U.S.) competition, has successfully attracted a combination of cash and in kind sponsorships from Canadian and US corporations including Blake Cassels & Graydon, LLP, who are providing all legal and taxation services to the da Vinci Project and Omnivex Corporation, who are supplying avionic display hardware and graphical display technology for both the cockpit and the mission command centre. In addition, pre-launch tests are currently being carried out by such organizations as CFD Canada, who are carrying out the complex computation fluid dynamics testing of the flight profile and Defence and Civil Institute of Environmental Medicine (DCIEM), who have agreed to provide the aero-medical testing and training expertise to the pilots of the da Vinci Project.
"Support for this Canadian initiative is overwhelming," said De Jordy who notes that more than 10,000 volunteers hours have already been invested into the project. "Momentum is building as we enter the next phase of our mission. There is a real excitement that we are nearing a historic moment in aerospace history."
The da Vinci Project will launch its rocket from the world's largest hot air balloon. The 2,500 kg (5,500 pound) rocket will be tethered 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the 25-story balloon and lifted over the course of an hour to an altitude of 40,000 feet.
The 10,000-pound thrust, liquid oxygen, kerosene engine will fire and the rocket will fly an initial angular trajectory to clear the balloon. The spacecraft then will transition to vertical flight to its apogee of 120 km in space. The rocket will reach a maximum speed on both its ascent and reentry of Mach 4, or 4,250 kph (2,650 mph). An innovative ballute will protect and stabilize the rocket on reentry. A flyable parafoil will be deployed between 25,000 and 10,000 feet and the rocket will descend under control, guided by GPS, to a predetermined landing zone. The da Vinci Project is currently considering several locations in Western Canada.
"The unveiling of the da Vinci Project's engineering prototype vividly demonstrates that their effort is on a fast track," said Gregg Maryniak, executive director, X-Prize Foundation. "They are positioning themselves as a leader in the emerging space tourism and space flight industry."
To win the $10 million X-Prize, spacecraft must be privately financed and constructed, and demonstrate the ability to fly three people into space. The vehicles must be reusable, flying twice within a two-week period. The competition's goal, which has been endorsed by leading space and aviation organizations around the world, is to jump-start the commercialization of space, including space tourism.
For additional information about the X-Prize, visit the X-Prize Foundation web site at www.xprize.org. The da Vinci Project web site is www.davinciproject.com.
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Lisa Clarke or Diane Murphy