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Proceedings Paper

Wind-based navigation of a hot-air balloon on Titan: a feasibility study
Author(s): Roberto Furfaro; Jonathan I. Lunine; Alberto Elfes; Kim Reh
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Paper Abstract

Current analysis of data streamed back to Earth by the Cassini spacecraft features Titan as one of the most exciting places in the solar system. NASA centers and universities around the US, as well as the European Space Agency, are studying the possibility of sending, as part of the next mission to this giant moon of Saturn, a hot-air balloon (Montgolfier-type) for further and more in-depth exploration. The basic idea would be to design a reliable, semi-autonomous, and yet cheap Montgolfier capable of using continuous flow of waste heat from a power source to lift the balloon and sustain its altitude in the Titan environment. In this paper we study the problem of locally navigating a hot-air balloon in the nitrogen-based Titan atmosphere. The basic idea is to define a strategy (i.e. design of a suitable guidance system) that allows autonomous and semi-autonomous navigation of the balloon using the available (and partial) knowledge of the wind structure blowing on the saturnian satellite surface. Starting from first principles we determined the appropriate thermal and dynamical models describing (a) the vertical dynamics of the balloon and (b) the dynamics of the balloon moving on a vertical plane (2-D motion). Next, various non-linear fuzzy-based control strategies have been evaluated, analyzed and implemented in MATLAB to numerically simulate the capability of the system to simultaneously maintain altitude, as well as a scientifically desirable trajectory. We also looked at the ability of the balloon to perform station keeping. The results of the simulation are encouraging and show the effectiveness of such a system to cheaply and effectively perform semi-autonomous exploration of Titan.

Paper Details

Date Published: 15 April 2008
PDF: 13 pages
Proc. SPIE 6960, Space Exploration Technologies, 69600C (15 April 2008); doi: 10.1117/12.777654
Show Author Affiliations
Roberto Furfaro, Univ. of Arizona (United States)
Jonathan I. Lunine, Univ. of Arizona (United States)
Alberto Elfes, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)
Kim Reh, Jet Propulsion Lab. (United States)


Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6960:
Space Exploration Technologies
Wolfgang Fink, Editor(s)

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