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News Archive, 2009 - 2012


December 28, 2012 - ARCA Will Test the ExoMars Spacecraft's Parachutes


ARCA and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a $1.1 mil. contract for the ExoMars, High Altitude Drop Test - Balloon Flight Services Program (HADT-BFS). During the contract, ARCA will contribute to the 2016 ExoMars spacecraft program by testing its parachutes, that will allow it to safely land on Mars. The cooperation decision was taken after preliminary meetings between ARCA and ESA. On these meetings, the European Space Agency presented the program's requirements while ARCA responded to these requirements by its own technical capabilities and expertise. ARCA will build two large high altitude balloons and two testing vehicles weighting more than half a tone each. The vehicle, named the DTV, or Drop Test Vehicle, will be launched from 30 km altitude, over the Black Sea. The vehicle will fall until it will reach a speed up to 0.8 Mach. At this transonic speed, the DTV will deploy the parachutes to test them in flight, in the simulated Martian atmospheric conditions. The flight data will be transmitted from the DTV to the ARCA's Flight Command and Control Center.



August 16, 2012 - ARCA Completed the First Executor Engine


ARCA completed the work on the first Executor Engine, designed for the Haas 2C rocket and Excelsior rocket-plane. A second Executor engine is 50% completed. The Executor engine uses liquid oxygen as oxidizer and and kerosene as fuel. The engine has a thrust of 53,000 lbf (24,000 kgf) in vacuum and has a maximum operating time of 190 seconds. By using composite materials and aluminum alloys on a large scale, Executor engine weights only 210 kg, and has a thrust to weight ratio of 110. ARCA estimates achieving an even better ratio after the tests are completed.



June 1, 2012 - Haas 2C Orbital Rocket Presentation


ARCA presented the Haas 2C orbital rocket. The rocket have launch weight of 35,000 lb (16,000 kg) and is designed to place 880 lb (400 kg) into LEO. Haas 2C first payload will be the CubeMessenger, the next Bulgarian satellite. CubeMessenger, built by Bulgarian team BOREAS (Bulgarian Orbital Research and Satellites), is a satellite with an operational lifespan between one week and a month. It will be used to test and refine available communications and attitude control instrumentation and to provide a practical experience in small satellite operation. CubeMessenger will be equipped with a digital camera for Low Earth Orbit observations.



March 27, 2012 - The Lightest Rocket Fuel Tank in the World


ARCA tested the kerosene tank for the Excelsior rocket-plane and Haas 2 orbital rocket. The team pressurized the tank beyond its strength limit. The tank walls are so thin that the tank must be maintained at an internal pressure of 0.5 atmospheres, even during storage. If the pressure were removed from the tank, it would collapse under its own weight. The ratio of structure mass / fuel mass / pressure is 0.00082, the best ever in aerospace industry. The tank, which will be used for the Google Lunar X Prize competition, was made entirely from composite materials. "Sunday's test has confirmed that we are the owners of the technology to fabricate the lightest kerosene rocket tanks in the world, which will be used during the incoming flights. We succeeded to outperform the Atlas and Centaur rocket fuel tanks, known as the lighter tanks. This technology will be implemented on the Excelsior rocketplane and Haas 2 rocket. I want to congratulate the team for the exceptional result." - Dumitru Popescu, ARCA President.



January 25, 2012 - Mission 8 Flights


ARCA launched Mission 8, a flight test program for special designation equipment. Propulsion tests and data transmission were performed during a series of five flights. All payloads were recovered in the allocated safety areas.



September 29, 2011 - The Excelsior Rocket-Plane's Capsule Was Drop-Tested


On September 26, 2011, ARCA with the support of the Aviation Special Unit and the Coast Guard, performed Mission 6, the test flight of IAR-111 Excelsior rocket-plane. capsule. A Mi-17 helicopter lifted the capsule to the altitude of 2,300 ft (700 m). The helicopter released the capsule and the recovery parachute was extracted from its container by a rocket motor. The capsule landed perfectly on the sea. Two ships of the Coast Guard have supported the recovery. The recovery of the capsule from the sea was made with the same Mi-17 helicopter.



September 18, 2011 - The Aerodynamic Simulations for the Excelsior Rocket-Plane Were Completed


The Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations for IAR-111 Excelsior began at ARCA in 2010. Since then, ARCA has continued the simulations for all possible flight configurations. The long duration of these simulations was determined by the complexity and by the amount of calculation required. During this period three computers worked almost non-stop. 
"At the end of 2010 we had a clear picture of the IAR-111 Excelsior configuration from aerodynamic simulations run. This allowed us to start working on the rocket-plane. in early 2011. Since then, the simulations were made for all the flight configurations, altitudes and speeds. These simulations lead to some changes for optimizing the aircraft's geometry, even during construction, such as lowering the aircraft's engine 30 cm below the level of the wings, increasing wingspan by 90 cm. At this point it's likely to maintain this configuration of the rocketplane. " - Dumitru Popescu, ARCA president.


September 12, 2011 - The Excelsior Rocket-Plane Front Fuselage Section Positive Moulds Completed


ARCA completed the rear section positive molds for the IAR-111 Excelsior rocket-plane. These are the final molds for the rocket-plane. fuselage.


July 13, 2011- ARCA Visited NASA Ames Research Center


On 10-13 July 2011, ARCA attended the Google Lunar X Prize summit held at NASA Ames Research Center and Seti Institute in San Francisco. ARCA presented IAR-111 program. The team was able to talk to NASA's Ames Research Center engineers about the aircraft and spaceship models tested in the wind tunnels. "It was an opportunity for us to see legendary places at NASA Ames, places where were tested experimental aircrafts and capsules for the US Space Program. There are places where history overwhelms you and NASA Ames is one of them."- Dumitru Popescu, ARCA president. At the end of the Summit, ARCA was also present at Google Headquarters to discuss about the opportunity to better promote ARCA using Google technologies.


July 5, 2011 - ARCA Completed the Excelsior Rocket-Plane's Capsule


ARCA completed the capsule structure of IAR-111 Excelsior rocket-plane. The capsule is made of composite materials. It weights 1,100 lb (500 kg) fully equipped and has a crew of two (pilot and navigator). The capsule could be ejected when necessary and is equipped with two rocket powered parachutes. ARCA will soon carry out Mission 6, the cabin drop test.


December 22, 2010 - IAR-111 Excelsior Rocket-Plane Press Conference


ARCA presented today the project of a suborbital rocket-plane. It is called IAR-111 Excelsior and is intended for the space tourism business or as a first stage for the Haas 2C rocket.



October 4, 2010 - Helen 2 Rocket Launch, Press Conference


ARCA held a press conference to communicate the Mission 4B launch results.



October 1, 2010 - Helen 2 Rocket Successfully Launched


ARCA has successfully launched the Helen rocket and completed the first flight in the Google Lunar X Prize Competition. The rocket was launched this time with only one stage. Balloon ascent took 40 minutes to an altitude of 46,000 ft (14,000 m). The flight data were transmitted to the command centers of ARCA and Civil Aviation. At that altitude the rocket was separated from the balloon and the engine ran for 30 seconds placing the rocket to an altitude of 131,000 ft (40.000 m). More details about this event after the press conference, which will take place, on October 4.



August 4, 2010 - Mission 4, Helen 2 Rocket Launch Attempt


Today took place the Mission 4 launch attempt for the Helen rocket. ARCA team, and the launch equipments, were transported on the Black Sea on-board NSSL 281 Constanta Navy ship. The launch procedures were carried out perfectly, but the helium balloon envelope ruptured and the team could no longer continue the launch. The next launch attempt will take place in October 2010, using a newly built balloon.


April 28, 2010 - Mission 5, Avionics Flight Test for the Helen 2 Rocket


In order to test the Helen rocket avionics (radio/satellite command/telemetry parameters and the live video transmission), ARCA performed Mission 5. The Helen capsule was lifted to an altitude of 17,000 ft (5200 m) by a manned hot air balloon. The maximum distance between the carrier balloon and the command center was 42 km, which corresponded with Helen rocket safety zone.

The mission results were:
- the TV system worked well, the video signal being received for about 90% of total emission time;
- radio and satellite telemetry systems worked perfectly during flight;
- two, out of three command systems worked perfectly, both on satellite and radio. The third on radio, failed.

Balloon crew: Mihai Ilie - pilot, Mugurel Ionescu - copilot, Dumitru Popescu - avionics equipment operator.

Helen 2 space rocket will be launched in very short time during the already scheduled Mission 4.



February 4, 2010 - Google Lunar X Prize Summit


The Google Lunar X Prize Summit was held at NASA JPL in Pasadena, California. During the Summit the teams discussed about competition regulations, shared own experience and learned from previous NASA planetary missions. Also, the teams were informed about the latest NASA's projects of planetary exploration.


November 17, 2009 - Helen Rocket Launch Attempt


The first launch attempt took place on November 14, 2009 during Mission 3. The rocket launch procedure was carried-out successfully, but the 7,060,000 ft3 (200,000 m3) balloon inflation, directly on the sea surface, wasn't properly performed. The balloon envelope was entangled with the inflation tubes. ARCA and Navy divers efforts to untangle the balloon proven successful after six hours, but because of the winter season the sun was near sunset. Since a solar balloon was used and the envelope couldn't be heated by the sun, the launch was canceled.



September 9, 2009 - Helen Rocket, Mission 3 Launch Announced


The new Helen vehicle that will fly on Mission3 has three stages: Demonstrator 2, 2B and 2C. Demonstrator 2 and 2B were created between 2003-2004 during the Ansari X Prize Competition. Demonstrator 2C is a new rocket created in 2009. The ELL avionics payload will be transported on this flight by the Helen vehicle. Helen will be transported at 14000m with the world's largest solar balloon. At this altitude the first stage will start and after 3 minutes the third stage, and the payload will reach space. The ELL avionics capsule will be recovered with parachutes. The Mission 3 will take place in late August, early September.


March 6, 2009 - Propulsion Tests for the Helen and Stabilo Rockets


The propulsion tests for Stabilo and Helen rockets, that will carry the Google Lunar X Prize ELL vehicle into a suborbital flight in 2009, are underway. Hybrid and monopropellant engines are tested.

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