Romania's first rocket launched into space in October

Romania's first rocket launched into space in October

The Romanian Aeronautics and Cosmonautics Association (ARCA) will launch in October from a Black Sea platform the country's first space rocket dubbed Helen, in what is the final rehearsal for a 30 million dollar astronautic contest for landing a privately built spacecraft on the moon, initiated by the Google corporation, ARCA president Dumitru Popescu on Wednesday told a press conference.

Founded in 2007, the Google Lunar X Prize competition is aimed at kicking off a rocket to the moon capable to successfully land a mobile spacecraft on the Earth's satellite, move it across 500 meters and beam home high-definition television views from the lunar surface.

According to the ARCA president, Helen is a three-stage space rocket capable of reaching the outer space in suborbital flight.

During the Google Lunar X Prize Contest, it will reach the moon in three days, and during the Black Sea drill it is expected to reach cosmic space in two hours.

The designers of this experiment do not yet know the exact date for the rocket launch, which largely depends on weather conditions.

Navy watercraft will take to Black Sea high waters the launch set consisting of rocket Helen and the balloon that is to carry it to the upper atmosphere, plus the ARCA team. Two large-size warships and three light boats will participate in this stage of the operation. The equipment will be unloaded from the ships onto the sea platform, where the balloon will be inflated and the rocket stages fuelled with an ecological mix of hydrogen peroxide in a 70 pct concentration. The entire set has a launch weight of over 2,000 kilograms.

'During the launch operations ROMATSA and the Military aviation will keep air traffic in the area interrupted. This is also necessary for the launch to take place under entirely safe conditions,' said Dumitru Popescu, adding that the rocket will be transported to the stratosphere at a 14,000 meter altitude by the world's largest solar balloon, made at ARCA.

Popescu explained that once the stratosphere is reached, the ignition of the first stage engine will be initiated and will be accelerated to a supersonic speed. When the fuel of the first stage runs out, the board computer will order the initiation of the second stage, followed by stage three. This third module actually propels the payload, consisting of the European Lunar Lander (ELL) pressurized capsule.

The capsule transports radio and satellite monitoring and telemetry equipment and cameras. It will be taken to the outer space by the third stage, followed by the procedure to re-enter the Earth atmosphere and the splash-down into the Black Sea by parachute deployment.

Meanwhile, the carrier balloon will start the descent procedure. All system elements will be tracked by radio telemetry and telecommunication satellites.

Rocket Helen, which is currently in Ramnicu Valcea (northwest of Bucharest), was designed and built by ARCA using exclusively private funds obtained from sponsorships and donations. The Romanian state did not participate financially in this project or the launch operations. Being a private project, ARCA did not reveal its value.

ARCA is a non-governmental organization, national leader in aero-spatial research, and a major competitor, starting 2002, in the most prestigious space competition awarded with the Ansari X Prize. The extremely complex launch operation, unprecedented for Romania, will be performed by ARCA with support from the Romanian Navy, ROMATSA and the Military Aviation.