Radioisotope Stirling Engine Powered Airship for Low Altitude Operation on VenusThe feasibility of a Stirling engine powered airship for the near surface exploration of Venus was evaluated. The heat source for the Stirling engine was limited to 10 general purpose heat source (GPHS) blocks. The baseline airship utilized hydrogen as the lifting gas and the electronics and payload were enclosed in a cooled insulated pressure vessel to maintain the internal temperature at 320 K and 1 Bar pressure. The propulsion system consisted of an electric motor driving a propeller. An analysis was set up to size the airship that could operate near the Venus surface based on the available thermal power. The atmospheric conditions on Venus were modeled and used in the analysis. The analysis was an iterative process between sizing the airship to carry a specified payload and the power required to operate the electronics, payload and cooling system as well as provide power to the propulsion system to overcome the drag on the airship. A baseline configuration was determined that could meet the power requirements and operate near the Venus surface. From this baseline design additional trades were made to see how other factors affected the design such as the internal temperature of the payload chamber and the flight altitude. In addition other lifting methods were evaluated such as an evacuated chamber, heated atmospheric gas and augmented heated lifting gas. However none of these methods proved viable.
Contractor Report (CR)
Colozza, Anthony J. (QinetiQ North America Cleveland, OH, United States)