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Airships as an Earth and Space Science Platform - Jason Rhodes

  1. 1 Airships as an Earth and Space Science Platform Jason Rhodes (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology) ESAACT Seminar Series May 21, 2021 Airships Challenge development Leads: Alina Kiessling, Ernesto Diaz © 2021, government sponsorship acknowledged. The cost information contained in this document is of a budgetary and planning nature and is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute a commitment on the part of JPL and/or Caltech.
  2. 2 What is an airship? An airship is a powered, maneuverable, lighter- than-air vehicle
  3. At 20 km, you’re above 95% atm
  4. 16,000 - 40,000 ft Hybrids Stratospheric 60,000 - 75,000 ft < 12,500 ft OPERATIONAL ALTITUDE Intermediate Low Altitude heavy cargo
  5. a New Horizon for Science Keck Institute Study Co-Leads: S. Miller (UCI/Caltech), J. Rhodes (JPL), L. Hillenbrand (Caltech), R. Fesen (Dartmouth) • Geoffrey Blake - Caltech • Jeff Booth - JPL • David Carlile - Lockheed Martin • Frederick Edworthy - Aeros • Brent Freeze - Sorlox Corp. • Randall Friedl - JPL • Paul Goldsmith - JPL • Jeffery Hall - JPL • Scott Hoffman - Northrop Grumman • Scott Hovarter - Lockheed Martin • Rebecca Jensen-Clem - Caltech • Ross Jones - JPL • Jens Kauffmann - Caltech • Alina Kiessling - JPL • Oliver King - Caltech • Timothy Lachenmeier - Near Space Corporation • Steven Lord - Caltech • Jessica Neu - JPL • Gregory Quetin - UofW • Alan Ram - Northrop Grumman • Stanley Sander - JPL • Marc Simard - JPL • Steve Smith - Southwest Research Institute • Sara Susca - JPL • Abigail Swann - UofW • Eliot Young - Southwest Research Institute • Thomas Zambrano - AeroVironment, Inc. Blue Devil II HAA - Lockheed Martin Aeroscraft ML86X - Aeros Titan Aerobot - Near Space Corporation LEM-V - Northrop Grumman HiSentinel - Southwest Research Institute
  6. 6 KISS Study
  7. 7 Study Outcome Three recommendations: I. A. Establish a roadmap toward >60 kft observatory platforms for Earth, atmospheric and space sciences. We found these platforms to be highly desirable and well-motivated. To make progress, we envision a roadmap as follows: i. Demonstrate high-altitude airships as a viable platform solution to capability gaps via a prize/challenge. ii. Launch path-finder(s) for science including site survey and new stratospheric instrument technology. iii. Develop and launch high-altitude, stratospheric observatory(ies). B. Build a consortium to educate the wider scientific community about the scientific potential of affordable stratospheric platforms and to further communicate to industry the needs of scientists. II. A. Identify and develop existing airships as science platforms immediately to be leveraged for the well- motivated Earth and Atmospheric science outlined in earlier chapters. B. Consortium-build to move low-altitude airships to mid-altitudes for improved capability-gap solutions in Earth and atmospheric science observations. III. Develop the first successful stratospheric tethered aerostat platform to support many of the high-altitude airship platform science goals at potentially an order-of-magnitude less cost.
  8. 8 Why Not Heavier than Air? • NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a 2.5m infrared telescope mounted in a Boeing 747. • SOFIA’s operating altitude is 13.7km. Airships will operate at 20km, opening up more wavelengths and providing greater resolution. • Operating costs ~$85M per year (~$1.7B over a 20 year lifetime) for up to 100 flights per year. The cost of operating a single airship mission could be an order of magnitude lower than SOFIA with similar (or longer) durations of operation. • There is only one SOFIA, but it may be possible to launch many airship missions simultaneously. • SOFIA is restricted to its infrared telescope. Airships can be a platform for many kinds of instrument (e.g. Earth observation, Planetary science, astrophysics etc). • Other proposed “heavier-than-air” platforms have similar altitude and cost restrictions. Figure Credit: NASA
  9. Atmospheric Wavelength Absorption Figure Credit: STSci/JHU/NASA 10km 50km 85km 500km
  10. 10 Why 20km? • Sweet spot with enough air to push against, but high enough to be above 95% of atmosphere • Winds at lower altitudes are higher and more turbulent • Higher than planes, lower than balloons Source: COSPAR International Reference Atmosphere Dryden Wind Turbulence Model 20km
  11. NASA Centennial Challenges • “NASA Centennial Challenges were initiated in 2005 to directly engage the public in the process of advanced technology development” • The program offers incentive prizes to generate revolutionary solutions to problems of interest to NASA • The 20-20-20 Airships Challenge is a perfect fit to this program
  12. The Challenge • NASA Centennial Challenge in development to build a stratospheric airship as a science platform ( • Tier1 (Tier2) of the challenge is to launch an airship to 20km for 20hrs (200hrs) with a 20kg (200kg) payload and maintain a station (and maneuver a course) for the duration of the flight. • Airships must show scalability to longer durations and larger payloads. • Anticipated $3-5M prize pool For more information, contact challenge development leads: Alina Kiessling Ernesto Diaz The 20-20-20 Airship Challenge Motivation • There are few opportunities for space missions in astronomy and Earth science. • Airships (powered, maneuverable, lighter-than-air vehicles) could offer significant gains in observing time, sky and ground coverage, data downlink capability, and continuity of observations over existing suborbital options at competitive prices. • We seek to spur private industry to demonstrate the capability for sustained airship flights as astronomy and Earth science platforms and Industrial applications.
  13. 13 Technological Motivation • Airships provide almost space-like observations for a fraction of the cost of a space mission. — NASA’s Explorer program costs at minimum $120M per mission — NASA/ESA Flagship James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has a total cost of ~$10B • Airship missions will be faster to develop than space missions. — JWST was first proposed in 1996, it will finally launch in 2018 2021. — NASA’s Roman Space Telescope was first proposed in 2010, but it utilized mature mission designs that had been studied for a decade. It will launch in ~2024 2026. — NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was first proposed in 2000. It launched in 2009 but a failure at launch destroyed the instrument. OCO2 was built primarily using spare parts from OCO and was finally launched in 2014. — It is time consuming, expensive and difficult to develop and launch space missions and we don’t want to wait decades for new ideas to be tested. — The lower cost of airships will enable missions to be launched more frequently.
  14. Requirements • Must demonstrate 20 hr at >20 km altitude while carrying a 20 kg payload (Tier 1). • Must demonstrate 200 hr at >20 km altitude while carrying a 200 kg payload (Tier 2). • Must station keep to a 20km diameter. • Must demonstrate controlled descent and successful payload recovery. – Requirement will be for controlled descent of only the rigid components but most importantly, the payload. – Most concepts of stratospheric airships have consumable hulls, and only the rigid components are reusable. • Airship must be “scalable” to longer durations and larger payloads. – Teams are not to rely on expendables for station keeping (inflation/attitude control afloat). If a concept uses too much propellant or other consumable to stay afloat then it may not scale to weeks/months at altitude. – Better option would be replenishable power sources. Teams will have to show their scalable designs at PDR/CDR type review where panel of experts will determine if the feasibility of scalability. – Must be operable at wide range of latitude (e.g some designs only work at the equator) – Must be able to follow a simple course (A to B, triangle, square) in Tier 2
  15. 15 HIGH-ALTITUDE AIRSHIP RESEARCH STATION Multi-vantage Earth-sensing and Atmospheric Studies Multi-wavelength Astrophysics and Cosmology Molecules hidden from ALMA Discover THz sky Interferometry of proto- planetary disks or black holes Planetary Science from Earth and Beyond Vertical profiles of the carbon-cycle Persistent stare on any part of sky or Earth
  16. 16 Earth Science Weather event following, urban monitoring, fire detection Image Credit: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response Team
  17. 17 Industry Google Loon ( Telecommunications, asset tracking, remote site monitoring, field communication Google, SpaceX,Facebook all want to provide internet to the world Google uses balloons (Loon), Facebook uses drones, SpaceX uses cubesats
  18. Health Impacts of Gaseous and Particulate Pollutants Science case: • We do not have continuous spatial coverage measurements of pollutants that adversely affect human health and ecosystems at the spatial and temporal resolution needed to determine exposure • Ozone, Particulate Matter, SO2, NOx, Non methane hydrocarbons Instrument: One or more of (depending on power budget. Could timeshare the power): • Multiangle Imaging Spectropolarimeter (AirMSPI currently flying) • 200 watts, 85kg • Imaging Fourier Transform Spectroscopy (FTS) • 150 watts, 82kg • Grating spectrometers • TBD watts, ~40kg Why this is important to NASA: • Addresses major NASA Earth science focus areas • Atmospheric composition • Carbon cycle & ecosystems • Climate variability & change • Human Health & Air Quality is an emerging priority under the Applied Sciences program How airships enable this science: • Resolution at the sub-neighborhood scale needed for health studies • Ability to stare at a single location continuously Development names: Jessica Neu (JPL), Dave Diner (JPL)
  19. 19 Challenge in the News now/la-sci-sn-nasa-airship-challenge-jpl- telescope-astronomy-20141202- story.html Page 1 of ‘Science Times’ and featured on Science Times Podcast