Test flights of JPL’s Venus aerial robotic balloon prototype

Much like a Mars rover is instructed to steer towards an interesting rock or other feature, the Aerobot can be directed to increase and decrease its altitude – something Vega balloons could not do – to conduct research between approximately 171,000 and 203,000 feet (52 and 62 kilometers) in Venus’ atmosphere.

The prototype balloon was made using Near Space techniques for performance aerospace inflatables. Designed as a “balloon within a balloon”, it has a rigid inner tank filled with helium under high pressure and an encapsulating outer helium balloon that can expand and contract. To increase altitude, helium escapes from the inner tank into the outer balloon, which expands to give the aerobot additional buoyancy. When it’s time to reduce altitude, helium is injected back into the tank, causing the outer balloon to shrink and decreasing the aerobot’s buoyancy.

“The success of these test flights is a huge deal for us: we have successfully demonstrated the technology we will need to study the clouds of Venus,” said Paul Byrne, associate professor at the University. from Washington to St. Louis and specialist in aerobot science. collaborater. “These tests form the basis for how we can achieve long-term robotic exploration above the hellish surface of Venus.”