NASA recently announced a number of futuristic space technology concepts which they have selected for further development. The concepts range in design & purpose widely used, but include an interesting inflatable bird like drone, that might be sent to Venus to study its atmosphere & climatic patterns from afar.
All selected concepts are still very much in their early stages of development, and the official missions of NASA are not yet considered.
The bird-like drone is part of NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program, the goal of which is to fund preliminary studies to evaluate technologies that could support future aeronautics & space missions. The current funding round is expected to provide approximately $5.1 million to 17 research projects in a total of 9 US states.
“As we aim for difficult destinations to explore with humans & robots, innovative ideas & future thinking will be essential to help us reach new milestones,” said Pam Melroy, NASA Deputy Administrator. “Concepts such as those studied with this new round of NIAC funding help us expand the scope of the possible so that we can make it a reality,” she added.
The current funding round allows 12 proposed projects, such as the Venus Bird like inflatable drone, to enter what is called “Phase I” of the study. 5 other projects already in this phase have now been officially transferred to “Phase II”.
For reference, “Phase I” projects will each receive $175,000 for 9 month study, while “Phase II” fellows will each receive $600,000 for study over a 2 year period.
“NASA’s mission to explore the universe requires new technologies & new ways of doing things,” said Jim Reuter, Associate Administrator for NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate at agency headquaters in Washingtion. “Exploring these creative ideas is the first step to-turn science fiction into scientific reality.
Bird like drone is not the only planned drone for venus
The “Phase I” projects for this approval are very diverse and include a novel design for a manned spacecraft that can provide radiation protection on longer journeys than conventional crew modules, a concept for a completely silent electric aircraft.
But by far, the most interesting concept of Javid Bayandor and his team for bioinspired ray for extreme environments & zonal exploration, BREEZE for short.
The “Phase I” study for the breeze will examine the development of the key objectives of the drone mission, as well as iron out the thrust capabilities, stability & flight dynamics, and design for inflatable elements of drone.
All these will be studied in order to create a very effective flyer for the Venusian atmosphere. It will differ significantly from other concepts which tend to involve the use of lighter-than-air atmospheric balloons or low weight lift craft based on solar-powered flyers.
BREEZE, on the other hand, will be a kind of hybrid between these 2 main types of aircraft.
BREEZE isn’t the only drone proposal for Venus. Another comes from Sara Seager of Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her concept would see a large weather balloon parachute into Venus’ atmosphere to capture gas & clouds for analysis.
These samples would be brought to earth, where scientists could find signs of life in the atmosphere of Venus. Believe it or not, the atmosphere of Venus is considered one of the few potential places that could survive on the planet of the same high temperature.
“As in years past, our new group of NIAC fellows demonstrates the creativity & vision of the space community at large,” said Michael LaPointe acting program executive for NIAC program at NASA Headquarters.