Author Topic: Mars Balloon Mission (Red Loon) With Variable Altitude Control  (Read 1465 times)

Offline L1Fan

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My first thread discussed Red Dragon payload possibilities, and one of the payload options
was a Mars balloon mission.  Here is more detail on what I had in mind.

I wanted to know if it would be possible to leverage
GoogleX's Project Loon's variable altitude
control method into a viable Mars superpressure balloon design. Unfortunately, I could not find a
single reference online that NASA, JPL, or anyone else thought to apply this method to planetary
exploration so I worked up my own analysis.


I have posted a presentation called
'Planetary Balloon Missions Revisited'
which re-imagines three types of past
balloon mission proposals to Mars and
Venus using Project Loon's approach
to altitude control.  It has all of
the assumptions, discussions, charts,
tables, equations, etc. to cover the
topic in some detail.  This is just a
quick summary of the Mars balloon
which I call 'Red Loon'. 

Of three types of balloon delivery methods
it seemed pretty obvious that the highest
probability of success for delivering a
balloon mission to Mars is the Red Dragon
itself.  All of the crazy hard stuff of
getting the balloon safely to Mars is
accomplished by the Red Dragon.  For a
future Red Dragon mission a modified
version of the top hatch would provide an
excellent means for deploying a balloon.

This image is an artist concept of a
Red Loon deployment from Red Dragon.
 

For the balloon mission itself, here are some of the capabilities:
    o  Circumnavigate the globe at varying latitudes.
    o  Provide steerable navigation utilizing wind directions at varying altitudes. 
    o  Land anywhere it can fly.   
    o  Access regions presently unavailable by current methods.
    o  Provide ever-changing panoramic images and data on a daily basis. 
    o  Travel over the landscape at whatever altitude we choose.
    o  Provide up close landscape characterization unavailable from orbital imaging.

If we are going to get serious about exploring Mars, then we are going to have to come up with
a better way to do it than these limited single missions that are restricted to their immediate
surroundings.  Rovers help a little, but they take literally years to travel a few miles.  There are
144,798,500 km2 of Martian surface to explore.  A Red Loon superpressure balloon can
dramatically expand our capability to do just that.

The chart below shows various options for selecting a design altitude and its impact on payload for a
Red Loon. For reference a standard GoogleX Loon balloon's diameter is 15 m.




Check out the presentation for more details and charts for both Mars and Venus balloon
missions including the equations used to generate the analysis.  Let me know what you think. 
My hope is that this type of mission can become part of the Mars narrative.

If you don't want to use the LinkedIn SlideShare link to the presentation, you can download the attachment below.

John Vistica
jvistica1@gmail.com

« Last Edit: 12/15/2016 07:05 PM by L1Fan »

Offline redliox

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So this would be a balloon that's divided by a bladder to allow segregated mixtures of helium and Martian air to vary the altitude as necessary.  I noticed in the website's slides they mention, post deployment from Red Dragon, that it could cost something like $320 million, which puts its within the range of a Discovery mission.  A main limitation they note is that accommodating the bandwidth of the amount of images they would wish to collect is barely feasible with current Mars communication.

Interesting in that all this is derived from a Google effort to increase internet availability on Earth.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
-Tigatron

Offline neoforce

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To be clear, I'm no expert in any of the math/physical sciences that are required to fully evaluate this concept.  So, my comments are just based on what you have in the presentation.

I do find this idea fascinating. 

I'm curious if you have any initial thought on what the usable payload might actually end up being?  From your slide about payload mass by balloon volume you say:  "The 'payload' here is all non-balloon items including the altitude control system."  Beyond the bladder for Altitude Control, your presentation includes other possible needs, specifically mentioning Solar cells and propulsion.  I assume we would need energy storage as well as the basic tech package for managing the balloon. 

At 20,000 cubic meters of balloon with cruse between 5 and 5.5 km, you get just 80kg of payload.  Outside of the weight for the potential camera you listed, have you thought about weight for those other options?

I wonder if anyone has a reference to the breakdown of weight on spirit/opportunity rovers?  I can find their total weight, and a list of the components on the rover.  But haven't been able to find something that lists the weight by component.  That would be just to get an idea of scale for comparison for this project.  I know technology has improved since those rovers.

   
« Last Edit: 11/29/2016 05:44 PM by neoforce »

Offline neoforce

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So this would be a balloon that's divided by a bladder to allow segregated mixtures of helium and Martian air to vary the altitude as necessary.  I noticed in the website's slides they mention, post deployment from Red Dragon, that it could cost something like $320 million, which puts its within the range of a Discovery mission.  A main limitation they note is that accommodating the bandwidth of the amount of images they would wish to collect is barely feasible with current Mars communication.

Interesting in that all this is derived from a Google effort to increase internet availability on Earth.

We still don't really know the cost estimate for red dragon, right?  That ~$300 million figure has been thrown around based on someone outside of SpaceX guesstimating, wasn't it?

Even if it is around $300 million, the cost for this mission might be less.  Depending if it can be shared with other experiments on the same Red Dragon.  No clue what the total mass/volume of Red Loon would end up being. 

In the longer term future, this would be a tiny piece of an ITS.  If it has value, you could probably throw a couple on an ITS and barely dent the cargo capacity.  But that is too far out to speculate.

Offline redliox

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In the longer term future, this would be a tiny piece of an ITS.  If it has value, you could probably throw a couple on an ITS and barely dent the cargo capacity.  But that is too far out to speculate.

ITS is the more distant future (although hopefully still within the immediate future), whereas the red dragon and this idea is something more achievable for the near future.  Aside from wanting to check the weather above the base site, I don't think a balloon would be on the average ITS manifest.
"Let the trails lead where they may, I will follow."
-Tigatron

Offline L1Fan

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I noticed in the website's slides they mention, post deployment from Red Dragon, that it could cost something like $320 million, which puts its within the range of a Discovery mission. 

The $320 million cost was someone's speculative figure for SpaceX to deliver their 2018 Red Dragon to Mars.  For a dedicated NASA Red Dragon there would likely be many other payloads along with the Red Loon balloon to fill out the manifest so even that would be a shared cost.   

GoogleX's Loon balloons come in at about $20K for a balloon diameter of 15 m which includes all of their navigation and broadband equipment.  I would expect a Red Loon to be at least twice the diameter to get a decent payload mass.

Aside from the delivery costs, the lion's share of the mission costs will be the payload development.  For context the GoogleX's Loon balloon only costs about $4000 each and they are already in production by Raven Aerostar.  NASA and JPL could begin immediately by adapting an off-the-shelf balloon and designing and testing the Mars altitude control system for it.  The scientific payload stuff could be worked in parallel.

Online Bob Shaw

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I'd love to read the whole presentation, but not from a site that demands Linkedin membership (which I absolutely refuse to have any dealings with). Sorry, about that.

Offline L1Fan

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I'd love to read the whole presentation, but not from a site that demands Linkedin membership
(which I absolutely refuse to have any dealings with). Sorry, about that.

My intent was to have the presentation located where anyone could follow a link to it and didn't realize that
you had to sign in.  Slideshare has the best viewer that I have found so far and the links work as expected;
however, I have added the presentation as an attachement to the thread intro.

John Vistica
« Last Edit: 11/30/2016 03:32 AM by L1Fan »