During this Phase I effort ESAero and PSI will explore the application of powered paragliders enabled by the integration of flexible solar cells into a flexible wing to perform science missions at Venus. Phase I will also include defining the design space in terms of altitude, latitude, solar irradiance, winds aloft, platform mass, and mission performance parameters such as airspeed, climb and descent performance, and alternate mission profiles. Parameter space will include tradeoffs between altitudes flown, latitudes flown, and airspeeds on mission duration as well as basic PPG design parameters such as aspect ratio, wing lift coefficient, flight speed, and gross mass. Additionally, the ESAero/PSI team will identify coatings that are transparent at visible wavelengths in order to allow the solar cells to provide power, and will develop a simple, robust conceptual approach for separating from the atmospheric entry vehicle and safely deploying in the Venusian atmosphere. This Phase I effort will also define basic parameters and approach to development of onboard autonomy.
This Phase I effort will produce a viable concept for flight at the base of the Venusian cloud deck (40-50 km), enabling the exploration of a largely unexplored region of the solar system. The technologies developed will be applicable to solar powered paragliders for flight in the atmospheres of other planets and moons in this solar system. On Earth, the system will enable the development of new atmospheric science experiments, as it will allow long duration flight at altitudes up to 12,000 ft.
The knowledge gained from this Phase I effort can be directly applied to earthbound applications including agricultural, pollution, fish and wildlife, and hazard monitoring, as well as monitoring of the terrestrial road, rail, pipeline, and electrical grid infrastructure. Potential military applications include ISR, perimeter checks, and detection of nuclear, biological, or chemical threats. A series of these platforms may provide easily deployable, temporary communication relay capabilities.