This past weekend we completed the first project in the Experimental Operations division of Panthera Sciences: the X-HC1 Hovercraft. The vehicle is a basic hovercraft design that consists of a wooden platform and a plastic skirt. The vehicle aims to have a sleek design that allows it to be effectively filled using a gas-powered leaf blower.
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Team Panthera is currently working hard on a project page for the X-HC1. The page will have detailed graphics on every component and design aspect of the vehicle. In the time being, here is a brief summary of the things we learned from the X-HC1 and improvements planned for the next model.
Improvements Planned for the XHC-2 Model
In the research and development phase, we made the decision to incorporate a large skirt, which in turn creates a large cushion under the vehicle. The skirt contains 9 vent holes which release air under the center of the vehicle, which is then pushed out under the cushion and creates a low friction environment. The combination of a large cushion and nine vent holes created a low air pressure environment that was not very effective in supporting the hovercraft. It was far from failure, however, in the next design we will either incorporate a smaller skirt or smaller vent holes, hoping to improve the overall air pressure for enhanced capabilities.
While connecting the skirt to the corners of the vehicle, we ran into problems on how to make it visually appealing and functional. We were forced to redesign the connections of the skirt and came up with a folding method which provides a smooth 90 degree transition in the corners. In our next model, this method will be executed more effectively and precisely.
A final challenge came with the difference in dimensional placement among the dividers on the bottom of the hover craft, which brought up several problems in the design processes as the inch-difference could have caused effects in the design that we have not yet discovered. In future prototypes, we will most likely alter the size and/or placing of these dividers to simplify and refine the related design procedures.
Honoring Fallen Astronauts
In terms of important events in aerospace history, this past week is very significant. We would like to dedicate a portion of this blog post to those who gave their lives to what they believed in.
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On Jan. 27, 1967, NASA experienced its first space disaster - the deaths of three astronauts during a training exercise for the Apollo 1 mission. A fire inside the Apollo Command Module during a test took the lives of all three astronauts. NASA had not experienced a disaster of this magnitude previously. - Elizabeth Howell, Apollo 1: The Fatal Fire
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Tuesday Jan. 28, marked the 28th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster … The STS-51L spaceflight ended in tragedy 73 seconds after liftoff. - Hugh Harris, 28 Years Ago, Challenger Shuttle Disaster Gave NASA Painful Lesson (Op-Ed)