Enhanced PBO Fiber Reinforced Balloon Envelope Materials for Titan Aerobots
Lighter-than-atmosphere (LTA) systems provide significant advantages for planetary exploration due to their potential for extended mission duration, long traverse, and extensive surface coverage capabilities. However, LTA vehicles must withstand the atmosphere of these planets and moons. The atmosphere is often a challenging environment for the exterior balloon envelope materials primarily due to its extreme cold and complex chemistry. In this Phase I, Infoscitex (IST) will demonstrate the feasibility of fabricating a high specific strength fiber reinforced balloon material that can replace the currently marginally viable materials based on polyester film and fabric laminates. IST will develop an environmentally stable PBO fiber and use it to reinforce a new balloon envelope material that enables at least a 50% improvement in the strength to weight ratio while exceeding the flexibility to the current polyester materials in a Titan atmosphere. It is possible to achieve areal densities with this material that are in the range of 40 g/m2 that can support both super pressure and zero pressure balloon concepts. During the Phase I program, IST will demonstrate the feasibility of the enhancing the PBO fiber with UV and hydrolysis protection via significant balloon material sample fabrication and cryogenic testing.
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