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Airships and Instrument Packages: Conceptual Designs for Exploring
Principal Investigators:
Bryan Laffitte
Fred DeJarnette

Project Participants:
ID 400 Students:
MAE 495 Students:

January - August 2001

Project Sponsor:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

This project was organized around a semester-long studio that combined the efforts of students from the departments of Industrial Design and Aerospace Engineering. One of the goals of this project was to improve the interaction between designers and engineers to create new and feasible ideas for a highly restricted environment. The assignment directed students to design an airship that could explore Mars, gather scientific data, and report the information back to Earth. As the students generated ideas through brainstorming activities, they deliberately evaluated each idea for feasibility, efficiency, and how well could it accomplish the desired goals.

Preliminary ideas were presented to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at mid semester for critique. Presentations were made via teleconferences to allow both groups to communicate easily across the country. The students used the feedback from the preliminary design review to produce better-suited airship designs for the Marís environment. Two final airship designs were presented to JPL in a final review along with several optional instrument package designs. The optional instrument package designs were created by the industrial design students as creative alternatives for exploring the surface of mars.

This project concluded with the development of digital models for several of the designs. These models were used to create computer animations to demonstrate how the design concept will function. The animations were immersive in nature, projected onto a 180-degree hemispherical viewing screen similar to an IMAX theater.

Preliminary Design Concept: This double airship concept was designed to break into separate airships if a problem arose with one of the envelopes. This ensures survivability, allowing the intact airship to continue independently without propulsion.

Final Design Concept: This balloon is designed to be a long duration, pumpkin-shaped balloon that carries a magnetometer. Using balloons to study the magnetic field of Mars has significant advantages over using rovers and satellites.

Alternative Instrument Package Design: This penetrator will be delivered by a simple balloon that is large enough to carry the instruments and their gondola container. The instrument has several features to allow it to perform experiments over a long duration and report findings back to Earth.

Alternative Instrument Package Design: These rovers are deployed using the controlled descent of a balloon. This design incorporates a tri-axle to allow the rover to navigate over the rocky terrain of the Martian surface.