Wind-based navigation of a hot-air balloon on titan: A feasibility study

Roberto Furfaro, Jonathan I. Lunine, Alberto Elfes, Kim Reh

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

7 Scopus citations

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 semiautonomous 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpace Exploration Technologies
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2 2008
EventSpace Exploration Technologies - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: Mar 17 2008Mar 18 2008

Publication series

NameProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
Volume6960
ISSN (Print)0277-786X

Other

OtherSpace Exploration Technologies
CountryUnited States
CityOrlando, FL
Period3/17/083/18/08

Keywords

  • Autonomous exploration
  • Balloon dynamics
  • Fuzzy controller
  • Titan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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  • Cite this

    Furfaro, R., Lunine, J. I., Elfes, A., & Reh, K. (2008). Wind-based navigation of a hot-air balloon on titan: A feasibility study. In Space Exploration Technologies [69600C] (Proceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering; Vol. 6960). https://doi.org/10.1117/12.777654