NIAC Focus: Venus Atmospheric Probe That Uses In-Situ Resources

By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)
By Ultraviolet Imager (UVI), at around 2:19 p.m. on Dec. 7 (Japan Standard Time) at the Venus altitude of about 72,000 km. (Credit: JAXA)

NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) program recently selected 13 proposals for Phase I awards. Below is the description of a Venus probe submitted by Ratnakumar Bugga of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Venus Interior Probe Using In-situ Power and Propulsion (VIP-INSPR)

Ratnakumar Bugga
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

We envision a novel architecture for Venus Interior Probes based on in-situ resources for power generation (VIP-INSPR). Proposed Venus probe is based on the generation of hydrogen from electrolysis at high altitudes using solar array, storing it in chemical hydride, utilizing it for altitude control in a balloon system and for power generation in fuel cell at lower altitudes.

It is a challenge to have a durable power source in the low altitude environments, due to low solar intensity and low efficiency of RTG is inefficient. Primary batteries survive only for 1-2 hours. VIP-INSPR will refill hydrogen on one end and provide power on the other side continuously, thus enabling sustained exploration of the Venus atmosphere.