Shielded Mars Balloon Launcher (SMBL)
Aurora Flight Sciences, along with its partner Vertigo Industries, proposes a novel approach to deployment of balloon-based payloads into the Martian atmosphere. Balloon-based Mars exploration has the capability to cover a larger portion of the Martian surface than is accessible via a rover and to provide better resolution than is available from satellites. Due to the low density of the Martian atmosphere, the balloon envelope for even a small payload is quite large (tens of meters in diameter); therefore, balloon deployment is a major challenge for a Mars balloon. A ground launched balloon, as compared to descent launched, allows a longer time constant for deployment, more control over the timing of the deployment, and, if coupled with a rover, also allows more control over the location of deployment. A challenge to ground deployment is the possibility of the envelope being damaged during deployment by winds, surrounding rocks, or parts of the associated lander. Aurora's Shielded Mars Balloon Launcher (SMBL) concept addresses this challenge by using inflatable structures to provide a safe environment for balloon inflation and deployment. The proposed SMBL system has a 15 kg mass and packed volume of 0.15 m^3, and is therefore feasible as a secondary payload on existing Mars exploration missions.
Small Business Information at Submission:
Aurora Flight Sciences Corporation
9950 Wakeman Drive Manassas, VA 20110
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