- The broader impact/commercial potential of this I-Corps project is the development of a sub-orbital ballooning system for Earth and space observations, meteorological applications, and scientific studies. Currently, the only way to access this region is via rocketry, which does not allow more than a few minutes of access. The proposed technology may remove the hurdles in accessing the mesospheric sub-orbital region for a prolonged duration and allow balloon-based payload launch support at a cost less than 50% of the current sub-orbital launch costs. In addition, the proposed technology may intensify the exploitation of mesosphere for scientific research, exploration, and security purposes. It is estimated that the proposed system may save >$1M/sq.km/y in capital expenses and >$2M/sq.km/y in operational expenses for telecommunication service providers, making them lower-cost with wide coverage for next generation networks (5G/6G). In addition, the proposed technology may fulfill the remote sensing and technology demonstration needs of the private sector and military needs for communication and persistent surveillance, as well as the needs of federal agencies, academia, and the scientific community in better understanding the mesosphere and its effects on the Earth, which otherwise is not feasible using existing technologies of rocketry or high-altitude ballooning. A goal for the technology is to enable low-cost space exploration that will open doors to many who have no access to space today due to technological limitations and cost constraints, accelerating space exploration.This I-Corps project is based on the development of a sub-orbital ballooning system for Earth and space observations, meteorological applications, and scientific studies. The technology leverages advancement in ballooning technology by incorporating previous research on size control by energy and mass transfer to reach higher altitudes throughout the mesosphere and up to the edge of space (von Kármán line). The artificial intelligence (AI) powered system is designed to sense the environment, understand the ballooning transport needs, and fulfil energy demands facilitating the inflation or deflation of the balloon envelop. This capability enables the raising or lowering of the balloon’s altitude without bursting the balloon. The proposed technology performs precise altitude control that enables access to the sub-orbital region for prolonged durations. The proposed technology was designed to address the technology gap and market needs followed by proof-of-concept demonstrations on scaled prototypes.This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
- June 1, 2021 - November 30, 2022
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- Tansel, Ibrahim Principal Investigator