Random Thoughts: Inspiration Venus?

This morning, Grant Bonin (of the UTIAS Space Flight Laboratory) sent me a very interesting JBIS paper from about 6 years ago, discussing a manned-flyby/robotic-telepresence expedition to Venus. In light of the Venus ISRU series, I thought it worth doing a short summary of his excellent JBIS paper.

Some highlights of the proposed mission concept:

  • The mission concept would send a team of 4 researchers and a mix of several solar-powered upper atmosphere UAVs/blimps and a few surface rovers to Venus, which would be designed to be teleoperated by the researchers.
  • Upon the initial arrival at Venus, the robots would enter the Venusian atmosphere and in the case of the rovers land.
  • The researcher’s vehicle would perform a powered polar flyby of Venus, placing itself into an orbit with approximately the same velocity as Venus, but in a plane inclined to Venus’s orbit. This would keep it within 45 light-seconds of Venus for over a year of science operations (giving a worst-case round-trip signal delay of 90s).
  • During the science mission operations, a small electric thruster on the researcher’s vehicle would maneuver the spacecraft in a way that as it passed back through the plane of Venus’s orbit twice per orbital year, it would be just outside of Venus’s gravitational sphere of influence.
  • After the science period, the electric thrusters would maneuver the researcher’s vehicle to perform another powered flyby of Venus sending it back into an earth-crossing trajectory, for a total round-trip time of 2 earth years.
  • The two powered swingby maneuvers require ~250m/s each (with a 300km periapsis altitude), and the four node-shifting maneuvers total less than 1000m/s of delta-V on the electric propulsion system.
  • The initial departure to Venus would have a much lower C3 than iMars (8.55km^2/s^2 vs > 40km^2/s^2), making it easier to launch a decent mission stack  using existing upper stages.

The cool thing being that by entering this flyby trajectory, you get most of the benefits of having people near the robots to teleoperate them without the delta-V penalty of entering and departing Venus’s orbit, which would take around 8km/s of delta-V if performed entirely propulsively. While this hasn’t been studied in anywhere near as much detail as Inspiration Mars has, and at least with current launch costs is likely much further out of the reach of a privately funded venture, it’s still an intriguing concept that would be far cheaper than say a manned Mars mission.Anyhow, I just wanted to present this concept for discussion.

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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6 Responses to Random Thoughts: Inspiration Venus?

  1. gbaikie says:

    Needs mass for 2 years of life support and 2 years of GCR.
    Not as much GCR as at Earth to Mars distance, but seems the crew would get their career radiation dose doing it.

    So from Earth at nearest it’s 40 million km- or 134 second one way or
    over 264 second [4.4 mins] round trip. Is not having more than 90 second round trip delay worth more than compared to 5 min delay?

    And if there was less than one second round trip delay how much is that worth compared to less than 90 second or 5 mins?

    It seems what do to explore Venus is put a balloon/hollow sphere at say 30 km elevation.
    So that have it above most of Venus atmosphere, and below most of Venus clouds.
    And say have mission last a Earth year. Having most of time in Venus day side. One should get a fair amount solar power from this elevation, and the sun will dimly light the Venus surface and allow high resolution images.

    So at 30 km you have about 10 Atm or 150 psi. And make it strong to hold 150 psi, and control pressure so doesn’t exceed 150 psi.
    And fill it with helium.
    So it’s about 10 times earth atmosphere, so Earth 1 atm is 1.2 kg per cubic meter. So 12 kg per cubic meter.
    If a 2 cubic meter volume can make it weigh less than 24 kg?
    If not then something as large as 4 meter diameter sphere is about 33 cubic meter, allowing gross weigh about 400 kg.
    And with drogue chute so doesn’t spin and buoyant at level of atmosphere is 10 Atm, it enter directly from Earth to Venus trajectory.
    So such mission should cost less than 200 million dollars.

    Perhaps after one has more surface details, one consider putting landers on surface.

  2. Pingback: Inspiration Venus? | Transterrestrial Musings

  3. Pingback: Space-for-All at HobbySpace » Panel session on leveraging public interest in deep space missions at Dupont Summit, Dec. 6 + A Venus mission proposal

  4. On my LinkedIn page I have a SBIR Project I call. “Yellow Dragon” perhaps you have guessed correctly it’s a SpaceX derived Venus orbiter and probe.
    If you folks will recall the concept called “Red Rocks”, Two Orion capsules docked together with only one capsule with a service model, so it is with “Yellow Dragon”.I use in my mission design inflatable TPS to augment the leading Dragon capsule for an aerodynamic deceleration followed some days later by one or both capsules performing EDL. The service module remains in orbit as data relay and science mission.
    A must read is this paper,

    I think Dragon can perform some of the EDL of past missions, see the master table of all Venus missions to date and their entry speeds
    Dragon cannot handle many of the past entry speeds
    If you care to you might see my PowerPoint on LinkedIn entitled Kamikaze yellow dragon! This is from year or two ago when I thought the capsule would be just be a deployer of probes. Since then discovered many papers for the decadal survey by the VEXEG group,
    http://www.lpi.usra.edu/vexag/resources/decadal/ one paper discusses buoyancy in the Venusian atmosphere.The thought occurred to me, at what point would the Dragon capsule become buoyant? So began the process of rethinking the Kamikaze Dragon concept,

    I now know from an earlier post by Jon that my idea of a buoyant Yellow Dragon needs for work!

  5. “I now know from an earlier post by Jon that my idea of a buoyant Yellow Dragon needs for work!”

    should read, needs more work!


  6. Randy says:

    “Yellow” dragon? I haven’t managed to hit the actual blog yet, (work computer issues I’ll hit if up from home) but how did THAT come about? The “colors” associated with Venus are Red, (already taken for Mars, aka “Red Dragon”) and Green. IIRC Yellow is associated with Jupiter, and while most people tend to think of Earth as a “green” planet its associated colors happen to be Brown and Blue.

    Since the lack of response to the idea of a “Green Dragon” earth orbital greenhouse fell through I’ve been trying to “take-back” the name for a Venus Dragon based atmosphere probe:

    (Yep Jon you’re cited in the thread thanks for the information 🙂 )


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