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Could the ATO be a good technology to land on Mars?

Posted by: Ekkehard Augustin - Mon Mar 21, 2005 9:11 am
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Could the ATO be a good technology to land on Mars? 
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Post Could the ATO be a good technology to land on Mars?   Posted on: Mon Mar 21, 2005 9:11 am
Hello, jpowell,

the reason for this question is that somwehre between the earthian surface and the orbit the atmospheric pressure will be like it is at Mars. The same is valid for density and temperature but I don't know if there is an altitude at which all of these are like at Mars.

Really relevant for the question will be pressure and density. Is the ATO moving in regions of the earthian atmosphere ONLY that are Mars-like? And if so - wouldn't be the ATO the best vehicle to land at and launch from the martian surface then? Safe and slowly instead of risky and fast? Horizontally perhaps and by using buoyancy and ion drive?

If that really would be so -which would be the best method to keep the time ATO needs to the Mars short?



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Post That's an interesting idea   Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 3:14 am
Hello Ekkehard,

I like the idea of taking an Orbiter to Mars. I think you are right, alot depends on the atmosphere of Mars. I seem to recall that it is much thinner than earths atmosphere. This could mean that de-orbiting the ATO would require the ion drives since the atmosphere wouldn't provide much braking. On the other hand, Mars would have the advantage of not requiring a two-stage approach: the orbiter could set down on the surface while the bags are not too far collapsed.

Another question would be how to propell the ship to Mars in a reasonable time frame. I think ion propulsion would be best. This could either be by on-board drives or by riding an ion current projected from satellites or ATO's orbiting earth. The return trip could be done the same ways. Returning by the second method would require sending (and leaving) an unmanned ship in orbit around Mars.

Further question would be life support systems and radiation sheilding and maintaining the balloons in a vacuum for long periods of time. But JP will need to solve those problems anyway just to make a viable orbiting station, anyway. I would be interested to know how much thought the JPAerospace team has put into solving those issues.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 7:54 am
Making the ATO land directly at the martian surface causes the question too if it could act aginst gravity then or if it would require assisting engines then - but this is a modification only perhaps.

What about thsi, jpowell?



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Post    Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 9:10 am
Why not use a pump to reduce/increase the amount of lift the internal gas has? A compressor could move gas into a storage tank from the envelope and the platform would fall and then it could be let out again using a valve into the evelope to raise it. This should work fine in the Martian atmosphere (or even Earth's) but going higher would require additional propulsion. The downside is the extra weight but it is probably no heavier than additional motors to change altitude and has the advantage of conserving the lifting gas by not venting it when you want to come down.

If quick changes in altitude were not require, the compressor and gas tank could be quite small and maybe even solar powered. This concept is something similar to a fish's swim bladder that keeps it at a specific depth without constantly moving its fins and using energy.

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Post Hmm?   Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 6:55 pm
I'm starting to get a little confused! :oops: Let's see if I can figure this out.

Now, the martian atmosphere gradually fades away into space at high altitude, just like earths. So instead of think of Mar's atmosphere as being thinner, just think of the planet's surface being at high altitude, sort of like the surface is a DSS at operating height. Does that make sense? Then bringing the ATM (Airship to Mars) :) down to the surface would be like docking at the DSS.

The Martian atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide, which is more dense than N2/02 of earth. That means that the ship will be more bouyant than in earth's atmosphere. Assuming continously variable bag volume, a ship in earth's atmosphere (or any other for that matter, but it's easier to think in terms of earth's) maintains the same bouyancy no matter what the altitude and pressure, b/c even though the air is less dense at higher altitude, the low pressure lets the helium expand and reduce its density too. So if you fly the lifter to Mars, it will be more bouyant there. So maybe in order to sink to the surface, it may be necessary to compress some of the helium as Andy pointed out.

I wonder what kind of loss rate helium has for a big balloon. It seems a pity to use it, because as it escapes it leaves the atmosphere and it is lost for good. I know hydrogen would escape faster, but IMHO it seems like a better choice for these things because you can just generate more of it from water using the solar electricity at the station. You might also be able to get hydrogen from the upper atmosphere for the ATO; if I remember right there is a layer of it right at the top before you get to space. And of course, there's the benefit of better lifting power per bag volume. What do you think?


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Post Re: Hmm?   Posted on: Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:10 pm
LukeSkywalker wrote:
So instead of think of Mar's atmosphere as being thinner, just think of the planet's surface being at high altitude, sort of like the surface is a DSS at operating height. Does that make sense?
It sure does! I would think the ATO could operate directly from the Martian surface just like it would from the DSS high in Earth's atmosphere.

And I like the idea of using hydrogen. I too would like to know if JP has considered that.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Apr 01, 2005 3:43 am
Luke Skywalker nailed it. We been playing with the Mars landing senario for years now.
Both Mars and Venus are better suited for ATO then the Earth.

As interesting as it is to plan and think about the going to Mars and Venus, I don't like talk about JPA's plans too far in the future. The entire space industry is full of ACV's (artists conception vehicles) and the promise of big things only 20 years off. We are even guilty of having our own ACV's out there but I'm happier showing photos of stuff we've already done. That said you never know, we may make that out bound turn on the first Ascender orbital mission....


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Post    Posted on: Sat Apr 02, 2005 7:14 pm
Hi jpowell,

Thank you! I can see why JPA doesn't want to get ahead of itself in speculation in the future. That's almost certainly a bad thing; people would rather be surprised by progress rather than disappointed by the lack of it. But since I'm not part of JPA, I'm going to keep right on spectulating. :wink:


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Post    Posted on: Sun Apr 03, 2005 3:05 pm
Perhaps it might be good to say something about the background of my initial post as I already did sometimes in the past in other threads:

Once engineers, technicians, technologists, science or even entrepreneural enginners have invented something and can be seen to make it work and especially once they have it ready successfully the question arises what else it might of use for besides the initial purpose that caused the invention.

This question for "what else could it be used for" is merely an economical question... - but it requires to consult the inventors and constructors as well as engineers in general. It's a look into the future which is considered to be the nearly only relevant question in Economics and in economy-related politics.

The question what a technology could be used for is a technological question too - and an important one seen from an Economist's view.

This means that jpowell is completely right in not speculating because his focus is and must be to make the technology he invents working and that all who are outside JP Aerospace are right too in "speculating". The use, the purpose in the future are the surces of getting financial ressources, money and customers now.

So in this thread the question of "what could it be used for and what way" should continue to be discussed technological but very carefully.

What you said, jpowell, is very encouraging.



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Post    Posted on: Tue Apr 19, 2005 8:57 am
To provide an alternative look to it - ATOs could be an alternative to the ballutes of Ball too. This would fit into what JP Aerospace is working ob currently as well as into my initial Mars question.

Ball's ballutes are developed to decelerate vehicles by atmospherical drag and friction. The ballutes get hot but not to hot and will decelerate a vehicle or payload down to velocities where they can drop down to the surface and reach the ground intact and reusable as I understand it.

ATOs can do so too - and they can do it in both directions. On Earth they do it from the DSS and the floating ports - on Mars directly from the surface obviously. An ATO could go to the orbit release a vehicle there and then the ATO can return to the DSS/surface while the vehicle accelerates for interplanetary travel to another planet. At arrival there another ATO could carry it down to a DSS or tonthe surface if the planet has an atmosphere.

There may be restrictions of capacity. But in principle ATO seems to be a technological alternative or a technological competitor to Ball's ballutes.



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Post    Posted on: Thu Apr 21, 2005 5:38 pm
If you use a balloon to lift a payload up somewhere and release it to another ship or into orbit, the ship will be more boyant. Correct me if I/m worng, but it seem that order to bring the ship back down, the amount of energy used in compressing the lifting gas will be the same or greater than the amount of energy it would require to lift the payload the same distance using a winch or other electrical method. My reason in thinking this is that if you make a round trip to a DSS and back on a lifter, but leave a payload at the DSS, you will have done work in lifting the payload that will not be recovered going down, b/c the payload remains aloft.

Also, putting a payload off from a lifter to a DSS will make the DSS drop somewhat, and the lifter will want to rise. This could create docking problems if the payload were big enough.


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Post    Posted on: Thu Apr 21, 2005 10:09 pm
Future solar sails/collectors could benefit from JP. I want to see 100 tons of mylar launched by an HLLV unfurl and inflate in space--a real solar sail--not the toy The Planetary society wants. Solar power works for large articles--not parasol sized contraptions launched in cramped SLBMs with a shroud closer to the size of a toilet seat.


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Post    Posted on: Fri Apr 22, 2005 7:36 am
Hello, LukeSkywalker,

I could imagine two solutions:

1. Using solar power to cool down the gas - at 42 km altitude sufficient solar power is available.
2. Moving over gas to the DSS to act agianst the drop by the payload.

These two could be combined

What could be added?



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