Purdue University Graduate School
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posted on 2022-12-20, 14:16 authored by Weston Patrick BuchananWeston Patrick Buchanan

Unexplained signals emanating from the pervasive Venusian clouds have intrigued scien- tists for more than half a century. Efforts to account for a myriad of perplexing measurements have motivated the development of new atmospheric missions to Venus. Fulfillment of science objectives in the inhospitable Venusian environment necessitates a range of mission archi- tectures, each of which poses significant design challenges which guide the development of new technologies. Missions of greater scope require increasingly intricate sample collection and measurement techniques, leading inevitably to the demand for long-duration science operations within the clouds. Sustained flight in the Venusian atmosphere may be afforded by high-altitude balloons. As such platforms have been studied extensively for terrestrial applications, it is prudent to consider which designs are most suitable for a given set of science goals. We present four balloon design options to accommodate Venus atmospheric science missions. We discuss system masses, envelope volumes, material characteristics, and mechanisms for altitude control as determined by the science objectives and cloud condi- tions. We consider three variations of a baseline mission architecture and corresponding gondola designs accommodating their distinct science instrument suites. The scientific value of long-duration in situ atmospheric sampling is surpassed only by the return of Venusian cloud material to Earth for investigation in a laboratory setting. Sample capture, orbit ac- quisition, and subsequent return to Earth may be accommodated by a high-altitude balloon, rocket, and rendezvous vehicle. Precise understanding of the balloon-rocket dynamics inside the clouds is required for launch attitude acquisition and may inform sample capture strat- egy. We present a generalized dynamical model for a balloon-gondola system. We model the system as a triple-spherical-floating-compound pendulum (TSFCP). Dynamical analyses of pendular motion frequently rely on the use of Eulerian angles as generalized coordinates, in- evitably resulting in the residence of trigonometric functions in the denominator. We present nonsingular equations of motion in terms of Euler parameters. We characterize a notional Venus sample return platform and simulate its motion in the Venusian atmosphere. We discuss the behavior of the system in response to wind gusts and initial perturbation. We consider limitations of the model as well as opportunities for its extension into future work.


Breakthrough Initiatives Partial Funding


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Aeronautics and Astronautics

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Prof. James Longuski

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Prof. Sarag Saikia

Additional Committee Member 2

Prof. Kathleen Howell

Additional Committee Member 3

Prof. Carolin Frueh

Additional Committee Member 4

Prof. Sara Seager