Over the past few years, much of our focus has been on developing a functional parachute system and the Parachute System Control Computer (PSCC) that will manage it. This development is still ongoing, but the progress made thus far has freed us up to began work on the next phase of Project Redirect; the guidance system. As it’s name suggests, this system will be tasked with guiding the payload back to the launch site during the flight. Due to it’s complexity, it will be developed in multiple phases, starting with a test vehicle.
Like the Parachute Test Payloads (PTP) that have been used extensively, this vehicle will house the various electronic components needed for flight. But, unlike the payloads that proceed it, the vehicle must also be capable of directing itself back to the landing site. This has lead to the creation of a series of requirements that a prospective vehicle must fulfill, including aspects such as stability (during ascent and decent), glide ratio (or lift-to-drag ratio), cargo capacity and more.
While it is likely that a custom vehicle will need to be designed to fit all of these goals, before undertaking such a complex task we decided to preform a series of tests with a more conventional vehicle. These tests would serve to validate theories of vehicle performance and increase our experience with vehicle construction.
We selected the Flight Test Spear, a low cost flying wing built from foam board for the base of a new test vehicle. This guidance test vehicle (GTV), known as the Skipper will aid in the testing and development of both the test vehicle and the guidance system as a whole.
Before we could begin the implementing the electronics of the guidance system, we had to assemble the Skipper and preform a maiden flight with it, to validate that it would fly in the expected way. While we performed this assembly we also worked towards completing a separate test. So far the payloads we have flight tested have been ‘wingless’ with a relativity small wind facing surface area. This has given us significant data on how these payloads preform when ascending from the ground, but little information on how adding wings would alter the performance. This gap in our knowledge could be a significance obstacle to the development of a guided payload, so we worked to develop a test that would allow us to gather data on this topic.
The PSCC and the PTP-3 it was enclosed in was chosen for these tests tests, as it offered extensive data collection capabilities and a Styrofoam shell that was easily modified to support the attachment of wings.
With assembly of the Skipper completed and the PTP-3 prepared for flight, we were ready to undergo the next test.