A mini version of the Irobot That one day you can successfully navigate the skies of Venus Two test rides in the Nevada desert, This is a milestone for the project.
The intense pressure, heat and corrosive gases on the surface of Venus They are enough to disable even the most powerful spacecraft in a matter of hours. But at an altitude of a few tens of kilometers, a thicker atmosphere is more suitable for automated exploration.
The single mission concept calls for a balloon to be paired with an orbital vehicle VenusThe two work together to studyEarth’s sister planet. While the orbit will remain high above the atmosphere, taking scientific measurements and serving as a communication stage, a A robotic air balloon, about 12 meters in diameter, will move towards it.
To test this concept, a team of scientists and engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Near Space Foundation He recently made two successful flights of a prototype airship of about a third of this size.
sparkling silver ball It rose more than one kilometer above the Black Rock Desert in Nevada To a region of Earth’s atmosphere approaching the temperature and density that a flying robot would experience 55 kilometers above Venus.
Coordinated by Near Space, these tests mark a milestone in demonstrating the suitability of the concept to reach a region of Venus’s atmosphere too low for orbital vehicles to reach, but the airship mission could operate for weeks or even months.
“We are very pleased with the prototype’s performance. It was launched, displayed controlled altitude maneuvers, and was restored in good condition after both flights,” said robotics technology expert Jacob Israelewitz, who is leading development of the airship as principal investigator for tests. from JPL. “We’ve captured a huge amount of data from these flights and hope to use it to improve our simulations before we explore our sister planet.”
The only balloon exploration of Venus’ atmosphere to date was part of the Soviet missions Vega 1 and 2, which reached the planet in 1985. The two balloons (which were about 3.6 meters in diameter when filled with helium) took just over 46 hours before the batteries in their devices ran out. . His short time in Venus’ atmosphere provided an intriguing hint of science achievable with a larger, long-lasting platform of balloons floating within the planet’s atmosphere.
100 Day Mission to Venus
The ultimate goal of the erobot will be to travel with the winds of Venus, float from east to west, and circle the planet for at least 100 days. The aerobot will serve as a platform for a variety of scientific investigations, from monitoring the atmosphere for sound waves generated by earthquakes to analyzing the chemical composition of clouds. The accompanying orbiter will receive data from the astrobot and send it back to Earth while providing a global view of the planet.
Just as a Mars rover is told to steer toward a rock of interest or other feature, a hoverbot can be asked to raise and lower its height, something Vega balloons couldn’t do, to conduct science activities between roughly 52 and 62 kilometers inside the atmosphere of Venus.
The balloon prototype was manufactured using techniques Space Near For High Performance Aerospace Inflatables. Designed as a “balloon within a balloon”, it has a rigid inner tank filled with high pressure helium and an outer helium laminated balloon that can expand and deflate. To increase height, helium is vented from the inner tank to the outer balloon, which expands to give the hoverbot extra buoyancy. When it’s time to reduce altitude, helium is pumped back into the tank, causing the outer balloon to shrink and reduce the buoyancy of the aerobot.
Paul Byrne, assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis and the eroding world. cooperateds. “These tests form the basis for how we can achieve long-range robotic exploration above the infernal surface of Venus.”
While this region of Venus’s atmosphere is more forgiving than its lower reaches, long trips into the planet’s rocky clouds, which contain sulfuric acid and other corrosive chemicals, won’t be easy.
And therefore, The multi-layer material developed for the outer balloon of Irobot It includes an acid-resistant layer, a layer of metal to reduce solar heating, and an internal structural layer that keeps it strong enough to hold scientific instruments underneath. New technologies have also been developed to ensure a long-lasting, acid-resistant seal with minimal helium leakage from the welds.