Mission Architecture to Characterize Habitability of Venus Cloud Layers via an Aerial Platform

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
August 14, 2022
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Mission Architecture to Characterize Habitability of Venus Cloud Layers via an Aerial Platform
Venus Life Finder Architecture

Venus is known for its extreme surface temperature and its sulfuric acid clouds. But the cloud layers on Venus have similar temperature and pressure conditions to those on the surface of Earth and are conjectured to be a possible habitat for microscopic life forms.

Image: Entry, Descent, and Inflation concept of operations. The EDI conops is derived from the
VeGa balloon EDI conops

We propose a mission concept to explore the clouds of Venus for up to 30 days to evaluate habitability and search for signs of life. The baseline mission targets a 2026 launch opportunity. A super-pressure variable float altitude balloon aerobot cycles between the altitudes of 48 and 60 km, i.e., primarily traversing the lower, middle, and part of the upper cloud layers.

The instrument suite is carried by a gondola design derived from the Pioneer Venus Large Probe pressure vessel. The aerobot transmits data via an orbiter relay combined with a direct-to-Earth link. The orbiter is captured into a 6-h retrograde orbit with a low, roughly 170-degree, inclination. The total mass of the orbiter and entry probe is estimated to be 640 kg. An alternate concept for a constant float altitude balloon is also discussed as a lower complexity option compared to the variable float altitude version.

The proposed mission would complement other planned missions and could help elucidate the limits of habitability and the role of unknown chemistry or possibly life itself in the Venus atmosphere.

Rachana Agrawal, Weston P. Buchanan, Archit Arora, Athul P. Girija, Maxim de Jong, Sara Seager, Janusz J. Petkowski, Sarag J. Saikia, Christopher E. Carr, David H. Grinspoon, James M. Longuski (for the VLF Collaboration)

Comments: Based on the text of the Venus Life Finder Mission Study report (arXiv:2112.05153). Published in Aerospace as a part of the Special Issue “The Search for Signs of Life on Venus: Science Objectives and Mission Designs” (this https URL)
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM); Earth and Planetary Astrophysics (astro-ph.EP)
Cite as: arXiv:2208.05582 [astro-ph.IM] (or arXiv:2208.05582v1 [astro-ph.IM] for this version)
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Journal reference: Aerospace 9.7 (2022): 359
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Submission history
From: Janusz Petkowski
[v1] Wed, 10 Aug 2022 22:23:34 UTC (1,448 KB)


Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA Space Station Payload manager/space biologist, Away Teams, Journalist, Lapsed climber, Synaesthete, Na’Vi-Jedi-Freman-Buddhist-mix, ASL, Devon Island and Everest Base Camp veteran, (he/him) 🖖🏻