A US aerospace company is planning to build an inflatable propeller plane that could fly through Venus’s atmosphere in 2021.The ambitious project would see the plane cruise through the sulfurous skies of Venus for years, sampling the acidic alien atmosphere directly and observe the venusian surface from 50 kilometres up.
Northrop Grumman is developing an inflatable, propeller-powered aircraft for a years-long cruise in the sulfurous skies of Venus and is gearing up to enter the concept in NASA’s next New Frontiers planetary science competition.
That Northrop believes its Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform, or VAMP, could be ready to compete for about $1 billion in NASA funding as soon as Oct. 1 is a testament to the company’s confidence in the concept, which despite arousing the intrigue of some Venus scientists is technically immature and likely to face competition from finalists of NASA’s last New Frontiers contest.
“I think we can be ready,” Ron Polidan, Northrop’s Redondo, California-based chief architect of civil systems, told SpaceNews.
The next New Frontiers competition is set to begin in the U.S. government’s 2016 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The winning mission would have to be ready for launch around 2021, Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, said in February.