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Phys.org's Blast off: space minnow Indonesia eyes celestial success says

It's a very long way from a Mission Control in Houston, but the Southeast Asian archipelago's answer to NASA has big hopes and is now planning to build its first spaceport on a tropical island off the coast of easternmost Papua.

"We've got a dream to put our own satellite-launching rocket 200 or 300 kilometres into space within five years," said Lilis Mariani, head of the Rocket Technology Centre at the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space, known as Lapan.

and later

"It was stable on take off and moved well," said Sri Kilawati, head of the Centre's rocket control programme.

"The objective was to study rocket control. They travel at a very high rate of speed so you've got to observe their behaviour," she added.

So I believe that vehicle shown is primarily for testing subsystems like control.

But I'm curious why it looks like this. There's what looks like a solid booster canted from the bottom that drops off, and an air scoop on top, and a nozzle in the back.

Question: What is this? How does it work? Could something like this reach space or even orbit when scaled up?

Blast off: space minnow Indonesia eyes celestial success

Blast off: space minnow Indonesia eyes celestial success

Blast off: space minnow Indonesia eyes celestial success

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    $\begingroup$ Wow, that is easily the best (visual) design I've ever seen for a scientific instrument. It's downright as beautiful as a McLaren. Gotta love the GoPro on top of it too! $\endgroup$ – Magic Octopus Urn Mar 5 at 12:48
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    $\begingroup$ @MagicOctopusUrn other GoPro's in spaaaaaace! 1, 2, 3 $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 5 at 13:20
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    $\begingroup$ 4, 5 $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 5 at 13:31
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    $\begingroup$ I note that the article now says “...sounding rocket into space within 5 years” (i.e. suborbital) rather than “satellite-launching rocket” (i.e. orbital) as quoted here. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Mar 5 at 21:16
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    $\begingroup$ I note also that the article refers to Indonesia’s space agency as “a relative minnow” (with its US$45 million annual budget) — the vehicle is not named “space minnow” as far as I can tell. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Mar 5 at 21:58
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With the intake and rear nozzle, this looks like a rocket-boosted air-breathing cruise missile -- Organic Marble notes that it's not unlike a scaled-down SM-62 Snark. In this particular flight (of “a few hundred meters”) only rocket powered and glide portions of flight are happening (YouTube video); I assume that if the design includes a jet engine of some kind, it wasn’t tested on this launch.

I had a brief thought that the intake could be for a ram air turbine to power the control hardware, but it’s rather large for that, and doesn’t explain the nozzle at the back.

So my guess is that this hardware design will in future fly a longer jet-powered trajectory after the solid rocket boost phase. This could conceivably be useful as the first stage of a small sounding rocket (build up speed, pitch up, release second stage at maybe 15km and 250 m/s) but it’s not likely to lead to an orbital launcher.

It seems more like a subscale demonstrator for an antiship cruise missile than a space launcher, honestly. I note that LAPAN has previously developed surface to surface missiles and tactical UAVs for Indonesia’s military.

The point of the rocket booster on a jet powered cruise missile is to avoid the need for a runway — critical for impromptu launches from a mobile unit, but not necessary for a preplanned launch from an airfield. Some cruise missiles use a solid booster to get a ramjet stage up to speed. Those boosters are generally proportionally a lot larger (ramjets need to be moving fast to start), and in-line rather than offset, so I think we're looking at a turbojet design.

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    $\begingroup$ Though I can't imagine why Indonesia would an antiship cruise missile, certainly spaceflight must be the only explanation ;-) $\endgroup$ – uhoh Mar 5 at 15:12
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    $\begingroup$ Not to be snarky, but it's basically a Snark en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SM-62_Snark $\endgroup$ – Organic Marble Mar 5 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Apart from a small matter of scale, yeah. $\endgroup$ – Russell Borogove Mar 5 at 16:04
  • $\begingroup$ The air intake and nozzle could be for flyback $\endgroup$ – JCRM Mar 5 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ If they are going to space with a jet then it will evolve to use SABRE. $\endgroup$ – amI Mar 5 at 20:44

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