FLIGHT OPERATIONS

Flight operations of the Lightcraft Lightcraft can be sorted into either performance-related or mission-related categories. The performance-related operations consist of the flight modes required for the successful functioning of the lightcraft itself. These operations include all flight systems necessary for the lightcraft to take off, accelerate, maneuver, land, etc. The lightcraft has 5 basic quasi-continuous flight cruise modes that it can employ: (a) covert hover, (b) low observable, (c) reduced power, (d) pulse detonation engine (PDE) flight, and (e) Magneto-hydrodynamic (MHD) flight. Reconnaissance missions conducted beneath the cumulus clouds of the atmosphere require the "covert hover" mode. When a mission requires that the vessel be difficult to detect or recognize, the "reduced power" mode is used for silent running. An ion-propulsion hover is maintained in the "low observable" mode (LOM). While in the "PDE flight" mode, the lightcraft may either hover or rapidly accelerate according to the dictates of the mission. In addition to the previously described 5 basic cruise flight modes, the Lightcraft Lightcraft can perform 5 basic types of maneuvers: (a) In order to avoid detection, the lightcraft is equipped for the hyperjump function. (b) Being hyper-energetic, the Lightcraft is capable of high-G acceleration directly into space. (c) The lightcraft is also capable of subsonic thermaling flight with large squadron of lightcraft. (d) During take-off and landing the lightcraft operator has a wide selection of appropriate aeronautical maneuvers at his disposal. And (e) the conventional pitch, roll, and yaw...

MISSION TYPES

The Lightcraft has been designed for hyper-energetic space command missions. The extreme speed, ultra lightweight design, and maneuverability of the lightcraft make it suitable for a wide range of operations. Typical missions for the Lightcraft fall into one of the following categories: Retrieval of downed lightcraft. The Lightcraft has the capability of lifting its own mass (2400 kg) with its maglev coils. This ability enables the lightcraft to pick up another intact but non-operational lightcraft and transport it to a safe location for repair of sustained damage. In a situation where the lightcraft is damaged beyond repair, it may have to be destroyed. Most lightcraft are designed to self-destruct if necessary, principally by rupturing the SMES unit coils when fully charged. The black boxes are designed to remain intact after lightcraft accidents. The Lightcraft is equipped to efficiently locate and retrieve critical black boxes from the debris in a rapid response, alert scenario. The Lightcraft and crew are capable of sustaining accelerations up to 300 Gs. In the event of an emergency, the lightcraft can bring supplies to anywhere on Earth in less than 45 minutes. This feature enables the lightcraft to travel to the moon in about 5.5 hours. The lifting strength of the lightcraft PDE-flight combined with maglev coils affords the vessel the ability to abduct a number of different ferromagnetic objects of varying weights, shapes, and sizes.

FLIGHT MODES AND MANEUVERS

CRUISE MODES

Under normal condition, the Lightcraft Lightcraft is capable of sustaining cruise at various flight speeds, ranging from subsonic to hypersonic. Depending on the mission profile, the crew can choose from the 3 propulsive devices on-board to achieve the desired velocity and features.

SUBSONIC CRUISE

When operating for long periods inside of the atmosphere, the lightcraft generally has a subsonic cruising speed. In this mode, the craft uses its ion- propulsion system to achieve a maximum speed of approximately 150 km/hr. The principle of forward flight for the lightcraft is quite similar to that of the late 20th century helicopter.

SUPERSONIC CRUISE

With the help of pulsed-detonation engine (PDE) and the Air Spike, the Lightcraft can easily accelerate beyond the speed of sound. The vehicle can achieve supersonic speed either laterally with a linear Air Spike just in front of the leading edge, or with the centerline parallel to the air stream. However, the crew must ensure that the incident microwave beam is exactly aligned with the vehicle axis, or the craft will not receive a sufficient amount of power.

HYPERSONIC CRUISE

The hypersonic MHD thruster is mostly used to attain a velocity sufficient for leaving the Earth's atmosphere. In addition to providing the necessary thrust for escaping Earth's gravity, the MHD engine is also capable of accelerating the Lightcraft into hypersonic dashes inside of the atmosphere, with the help of the Air Spike. In this mode, the Air Spike is activated to reduce the drag and the MHD slipstream accelerator is used to push the craft into the hypersonic regime. Both lateral and vertical flight modes are accommodated by the engine, which can alleviate the bow shock wave, or "sonic boom".

BASIC FLIGHT MANEUVERS

The Lightcraft Lightcraft is designed to fulfill a broad range of Space Command missions, including reconnaissance, surveillance, and rescue. With its unusually versatile thrust vectoring ability, the craft is capable of various exotic and hyper-energetic maneuvers. *Pitch and roll. With its ion propulsion engine, the Lightcraft exhibits low pitch and roll rates typical of conventional fixed-wing aircraft. In contrast, the PDE thrusters give a lightning-like responsiveness in pitch and roll. *Flip maneuver. Useful upon takeoff to receive the high power microwave beams from the orbiting energy station. The ion propulsion engine can perform this 180-deg. rotation in approximately 3 seconds. *Pendulum/ oscillatory maneuver. Mainly used to align the rectenna with the microwave beam during maneuvers, so as to receive intermittent power for propulsion. *Station-keeping. Used during surveillance and reconnaissance missions, at high altitude, to provide the on-board sensors with a stable platform. The vehicles perform this circular flight mode while tracking the microwave beam and derive the performance benefits of aerodynamic lift in maintaining this "holding pattern." *Spin. Using elements of both PDE and MHD propulsion system, the Lightcraft Lightcraft can initiate and maintain a desired rate of spin (i.e., yaw rate) to provide a gyroscopic stability effect.

HYPERJUMP TO EVADE DETECTION

Should the need arise, the Lightcraft can convey the illusion of instantly disappearing from sight. This hypersonic "jump" maneuver, called the "hyperjump," is normally accomplished while linked to off-board power, but for distances less than 11 km, stored magnet energy can also be used. The hyperjump can be oriented in any direction, but is most often performed vertically. The primary requirement of the jump is that it be faster than the eye can follow, which is beyond an acceleration of 20 Gs. As always, the lightcraft begins its motion with the PDE, which can be vectored until the vehicle is in position to use the MHD accelerator. An average jump distance is 2-10 km vertically, which is sufficient to reach the cover of clouds 90% of the time. The pilot can choose an acceleration rate for the hyperjump. At 20 Gs, a 2 km jump will require 6.4 seconds; at 100 Gs, the same jump takes 2.9 seconds; at 200 Gs, it would take 2.0 seconds; at 300 Gs, it would take 1.6 seconds. The decision on what acceleration rate to use is simply a matter of which the pilot deems more important, energy or time. Occasionally on extended ventures in unfriendly airspace, a high-power microwave beam may not be available when needed, and thus the MHD accelerator is unusable. A 2 km lateral hyperjump can still be made using the PDE exclusively, although the blunt vehicle cannot be pushed much past Mach 2 (approximately 680 m/s). The acceleration rate cannot be greater than 23.5 Gs, which is a jump lasting 5.9 seconds. In order to make the jump undetectable, no expendable water coolant can be ejected that would leave a visible vapor trail. Fortunately, the hyperjump is very short in duration. Hence, a small quantity of liquid helium is instead injected as a coolant into the vehicle's pressurized hull and not expelled from the vehicle after "consuming" the waste engine heat. As the Lightcraft undergoes massive accelerations (e.g., beyond 30 Gs) during hyperjump, it is necessary for the crew to be secured in their escape pods and to be breathing pressurized heliox. It is impractical for all the crew to be constantly climbing into and out of their escape pods, so the crew would normally remain in their pods if it is expected that a hyperjump may be neccessary

HIGH-G ACCELERATION INTO SPACE

Making the high-G leap into space is one of the primary design criteria for the Lightcraft lightcraft. This function is performed by using the PDE to punch through mach 1, then switch to MHD mode and accelerate toward the orbiting power station, located directly above the lightcraft, in orbit. Orbital mechanics ensure that the lightcraft never collides with the power-beaming station in orbit, and a flight plan is easily created to navigate the lightcraft around the Earth, to the desired destination. The lightcraft's ion propulsion engine can receive a low-power microwave beam from any incident angle upon the rectenna. However, both the PDE and MHD thrusters require that the microwave beam be exactly aligned to the rectenna axis of symmetry in order to operate in the high-power mode. The PDE is used to accelerate the lightcraft, lateral to the beam, up to Mach 2, keeping the microwave beam aligned with the rectenna. The PDE thrust is then vectored to rapidly pitch the lightcraft until its central axis is aligned with a new microwave beam, whereupon it accelerates directly toward this next power station. At this point, the switch is made to MHD slipstream accelerator mode and the lightcraft continues into space. The occupants must be breathing pressurized heliox mixture in their escape pods during this operation. It is necessary to take on 2400 kg of water coolant before initiating high-G acceleration to orbital velocities. This water is expended as steam during the run.

HOVER OR RAPID ACCELERATION IN PDE MODE

At sea level altitude, the ion propulsion system produces only enough lift to support half the vehicle mass of 2400 kg; the rest of the force needed for flight comes from the natural buoyancy of its pressurized helium gas. When flying at altitudes above 5 km, the buoyant force helping lift the Lightcraft is greatly reduced, requiring substantially more thrust from the engines than at sea level. The ion-propulsion engine is not capable of supporting the vehicle at high altitudes; thus, the PDE thrusters must be employed in this regime. For the case of hover, the PDE exhaust gases are vectored straight down. Like the MHD engine, PDE thrust can be vectored in most any direction, allowing highly agile control and lightning-like maneuvering abilities. For this reason, the PDE is most effective in demanding situations such as combat. From a motionless hover the PDE thrusters can accelerate the craft up through Mach 2 in a heartbeat, easily demonstrating 200 Gs-- giving the Lightcraft a distinct advantage in evasive maneuvering prowess over most any opponent. It is not necessary for the crew to be in the escape pods during low-acceleration (less than 3 Gs) flight in the PDE mode. Lightcraft control can be easily maintained through the personal access displays. However, in tactical situations, it is highly encouraged for the crew to remain in their escape pods because more options are available when rapid acceleration is possible; in friendly territory, when there is very little need for such energetic maneuvers, the escape pods are unoccupied.

PICK UP WATER-FILLED MAGLEV LANDER IN PDE MODE

Water is needed aboard the Lightcraft as a source of consumable liquid for crew life support and its open cycle cooling system. About 9.09 Gw of electrical power is generated by the rectenna during transatmospheric boost to orbit, and roughly 2000 to 2400 kg of expendable water coolant is needed to remove 1GW of waste heat dumped with the recirculated heliox pressurant. The lightcraft accommodates this task by having an onboard storage, retrieval, filtration, and disposal system for its water payload. One of the Maglev lander's multipurpose roles is to serve as the primary unit for water retrieval. The lightcraft is positioned less than 2 vehicle diameters (40 m) above the natural water source, and the lander is lowered down into the water. Just before contacting the water surface, "flood hatches" are opened in both the top and bottom section of the lander to allow water to surge into the body cavity at high rate. After closing both hatches around the liquid payload, the lander is magnetically retracted into the lightcraft. Once the lander is secure, the water must then be transferred into the ship. Before this can happen, the water must be filtered and purified to serve its purpose. Large debris and particles will have been prevented from entering the lander at the source by coarse screen-type filters positioned across both the hatches. Particles and contamination are removed by the onboard fine filtration and desalinization system. The fine filtration and pump system is located on the inner wall of the lightcraft's central "donut" region. Using 2 pumps, the water from the lander is forced through a semi-permeable membrane using the reverse osmosis process. When the process is complete, salts, minerals, and other contaminants left behind with the remaining unclaimed water, are ejected as waste. The resulting water from the filtration process is pumped through tubes along the hull structure to a tank directly below and attached to the perimeter superconducting magnets. This is an ideal location for this tank because flight propulsive forces in the MHD mode are applied directly to these perimeter magnets.

TAKE-OFF AND LANDING

The Lightcraft can land using one of the following "gear" options: a) the auxiliary tripod landing gear, b) 3 or more extended escape pods, or c) a Maglev lander deployed as a "foot."

AUXILIARY TRIPOD LANDING GEAR

The Lightcraft is equipped with auxiliary tripod landing gear to be used when the lightcraft is partially buoyant and carrying no water ballast. This landing gear can also be used to anchor or "tie-down" the lightcraft close to the ground in windy conditions. Each landing gear leg is a lightweight telescoping assembly that extends from the lightcraft to keep the vehicle up to 5 meters off the ground. Each leg has a foldout inflatable footpad that ensures that the landing gear does not sink into soft ground. The landing gear is deployed through portholes in the photovoltaic array with the gear extension actuators supported by three of the inner compartment walls. A double action pneumatic piston assembly extends the landing gear. Once the main assembly has cleared the vehicle, an internal set of pneumatics extends the landing gear until the desired length is reached and the footpads are deployed. Two different footpad diameters are currently in use on the Lightcraft: a 1.2-meter, and a 1.5-meter. The small bladder assembly is to be used when the expected gear load is 1200 kg. The large bladder assembly is to be used when the expected gear load is 2400 kg. (vehicle is depressurized, zero buoyancy). These large foot prints allow the Lightcraft to be set down upon very soft ground without settling, and the semi-spherical shape does not permit water or mud to collect on top of the gear. Each bladder is retracted into a protective cowling before the leg gear is retracted into the lightcraft after takeoff. The pneumatic deployment systems of the telescoping landing gear can be activated in such a manner so as to spring the vehicle into the air. At first the gear is shortened to bring the vehicle close to the ground; then it is extended quickly to propel the vehicle upward. Once extended fully the landing gear would be immediately retracted into the vehicle, so that the hull exterior can be charged for the ion propulsion flight mode.

RESCUE PROCEDURE FOR DOWNED LIGHTCRAFT BY ANOTHER

When a lightcraft is in danger of collision or other massive damage, its Smart Computer activates all applicable safety maneuvers and operations to preserve the vehicle and its crew. In the unlikely event that the computer's evaluations determine that the ship cannot be saved, it ejects the crew in their escape pods and allows the ship to crash. The computer determines the least destructive crash configuration for the failing lightcraft, and works to minimize the impact damage and maximize its survivability potential. If the computer has remained operational after collision or other vessel trauma, it will aid rescue and recovery operations of the ship. The survival of the Computer and subsequent recovery of any downed or injured ship is a major priority. Consequently, the ship and its components have been optimally designed to facilitate retrieval and recovery. The lightcraft's loss could prove very dangerous because of highly advanced technology it represents-- in particular its extreme speed and agility. To preserve security and our technological lead, a lightcraft would immediately be deployed to retrieve a downed one. The retrieval process can be done as a flyby. The rescue lightcraft first positions itself over the downed craft where the lander has landed to contact the upper hull. Next the Maglev coils in the downed craft's upper hull would be activated. Acting together, these coils have sufficient attraction force to allow the response lightcraft to lift the empty craft and carry it to safety using its PDE engines.

If recovery of the downed lightcraft is impossible, (e.g., its magnetic coils are inoperative), an attempt must be made to recover its black boxes and flight Computer, and the vehicle would be destroyed beyond recognition.

WATER COLLECTION FROM CUMULUS CLOUDS

One useful feature of the Lightcraft is its capability of filling its water storage tank using the water vapor in cumulus clouds. Clouds are comprised of water droplets, their size on the order of micrometers. In a continental region, there are generally around 500-1000 water droplets per cubic centimeter. This corresponds to a density of approximately 0.5 g/m3. In order to attain 2400 kg of water, it is therefore necessary to sweep out the volume of a cube of 150-350 meters per side. Most clouds are 10-50 times this volume. The Lightcraft cloud mining procedure is performed while using the PDE thrusters, and begins with actively conditioning the hull temperature to aid the condensation process. The droplets turn to ice in temperatures around -5 degrees Celsius, and in such instances, the hull would need to be heated. In warmer weather, cooling the hull to the dew point of water at the current ambient pressure aids the formation of larger droplets. The next step in cloud mining is to tilt the lightcraft to a negative angle of attack. The ion guns are used to charge the forward water droplets, and the Maglev lander is positively charged in the ship's thyroidal center, and the now negatively charged water ions are pulled into the ship. The water is then softened, deionized, and distilled. It is transported out to the water storage tank located along the outer rim of the craft. At an average velocity of 20 m/s, which is approximately the most efficient speed for cloud mining, it takes close to 3 hours to take on 2400 kg of water. In many cases, this is a relatively long time. For this reason, it is not encouraged to use cloud-mining techniques exclusively. A better approach might be to take on enough water to make a hyperjump to a remote and safe pond or lake.