Feeds

Doughnut balloon-chute spaceships to reach Mars, Neptune

Rocket braking is so retro <cough>

The essential guide to IT transformation

NASA-funded R&D engineers are working on plans for future spaceships to enter orbit around Mars using a doughnut shaped, steerable balloon-chute to slow down by flying through the Red Planet's atmosphere.

Global Aerospace concept of "lifting-towed-toroidal-ballute". Background: Tharsis Ridge, Mars.

Nobody believed Zralthar about the doughnut ships from Earth, until it was too late.

Global Aerospace is a Californian firm founded by ex-NASA engineers and in this case funded with NASA Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) money. The company announced yesterday that it would start modelling work aimed at developing what it calls a "lifting-towed-toroidal-ballute" for use by spacecraft approaching planets with a view to entering orbit around them, or perhaps subsequently landing on them.

The Global Aerospace team think that an inflatable "ballute" (a balloon-parachute combo) could be very useful for slowing spacecraft down by atmospheric braking. Even a slow interplanetary journey would tend to see a spacecraft arriving still going at very high speed, so much so that left to itself it might simply zoom past, escaping the destination planet's gravity field and barrelling off uselessly into space again.

It would, of course, be possible to slow down using rocket thrust. But this means carrying a significant amount of fuel all the long and weary way from Earth - and consequently much less payload.

According to Global Aerospace, it would make more sense to slow down by steering a speeding interplanetary ship into the planet's atmosphere, letting friction slow it down without use of fuel. In order to avoid getting awfully hot, the plan would be to fly through the thin upper reaches of the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds, with most of the braking provided by the inflatable ballute rather than the ship itself.

Old hat, so far - any fule kno the old ballute braking ploy.

The clever bit with the Global Aerospace doughnut-balloon wing/chute is that it provides lift as well as drag, and it's designed to be controllable from the ship. The Californian engineers believe that this will make longer flights through the atmosphere feasible, getting more braking for a given size of ballute - and so more payload. According to the company's statement:

The use of smaller ballutes will make them more attractive and feasible for missions to planets such as Neptune, where high heating rates require extremely large ballutes for drag-only capture. Ballutes can also be used to decelerate large payloads for landing at Mars. In this case, lifting ballutes can significantly reduce deceleration forces, which can result in lower mass ballute systems and reduced g-loads on crews that fly them to the surface of Mars.

Given the nature of penny-ante SBIR efforts, we're only looking at computer modelling and so forth here. Global Aerospace say that the tools they plan to develop will also be useful for designing various kinds of aeroshells for Mars landers, including lifting-body ships and cunning hypersonic shockwave-rider jobs. ®

Gartner critical capabilities for enterprise endpoint backup

More from The Register

next story
Boffins attempt to prove the UNIVERSE IS JUST A HOLOGRAM
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
China building SUPERSONIC SUBMARINE that travels in a BUBBLE
Shanghai to San Fran in two hours would be a trick, though
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
Galileo, Galileo! Galileo, Galileo! Galileo fit to go. Magnifico
I'm just a poor boy, nobody loves me. But at least I can find my way with ESA GPS by 2017
Astronomers scramble for obs on new comet
Amateur gets fifth confirmed discovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Best practices for enterprise data
Discussing how technology providers have innovated in order to solve new challenges, creating a new framework for enterprise data.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?