Planet II: A Neo - Machine Landscape
Logan Miller /// December 12, 2023 /// Portfolio Vol. 2
At the core of our anthropocentric society is the ability to unveil the answers to questions that no one had thought to ask. The impending space age is no different, as the future of civilization will inevitably reach further into the field of stars. Information about the universe outside of our solar system is sparse, especially regarding the atmospheric characteristics of our future: Exoplanets. Venus presents an opportunity to educate ourselves about the intricate processes that are foreign to planets in Earth’s immediate vicinity. Designing an In-Situ Research and Technical Demonstration Platform could enable humanity to unlock the secrets that Venus’ Atmosphere protects. This thesis is one such attempt at developing an architecture that takes advantage of Venus’ unique atmospheric conditions. An answer to humanity’s future problems lies at our doorstep; continuous analysis of the Venusian atmosphere through a Long-Term In-Situ Laboratory is the key to unlocking the next mysteries of the cosmos.
A wealth of information is proposed to be obtained from previous satellite missions to ensure the metrics and scientific goals of deploying the architecture into the atmosphere of Venus aligns with the hypothesized conditions of the preliminary research. This website's documentation of the Planet II Thesis will be focused on the physical architecture of the proposal. Further information + details regarding all stages of research can be found in the written dissertation.
Planet II is an attempt at deploying a self-sufficient laboratory within the goldilocks zone of Venus' atmosphere (circa 50 km above the surface). An inflatable aerostat will be the primary method through which the platform maintains buoyance equilibrium. This system is referred to as a Floating Allotment.
1. A Constellation of Satellites
Planet II Mision Timeline
Apart from each planet’s geographical evolution, Earth and Venus have shared qualities that have led to the collaborative alias of sister planets. Some of these traits include the mass, volume, equatorial radius, mean density, and surface gravity. Due to this similarity, copious amounts of information regarding our home planet can be learned by studying the impact that external effects have on Venus and its atmosphere. Likewise, events that are foreign to our understanding of the universe can also be recognized on a fundamental level by researching why Venus chemically evolved in a radically different manner.
The state of the art regarding the overall knowledge of Venus has numerous gaps that need to be addressed before future missions and investments should be considered. The dynamics and chemical tendencies of the atmosphere being the largest of these voids. A series of dedicated orbiters whose objectives are to develop a better understanding of planetary characteristics is a step in filling this cavity. Four satellite missions have been proposed to resolve this problem, they are as follows.
Planet BAT Chart
Satellite Location Diagram
Each satellite has a series of objectives to accomplish before, during, and after the deployment of the physical architecture (Floating Allotment) into the atmosphere of Venus. They are as follows:
1) Provide continuous coverage of Venus’ night-side and magnetotail
2) Determine current technological limits as it pertains to communication, power, and navigation
3) Gather data on the manifestation process of space weather
1) Provide continuous coverage of Venus’ day-side
2) Monitor the impact that solar events have on the upper atmosphere
3) Establish climate and temperature profiles in the 150 - 300 kilometer range
4) Establish a line of communication and data transfer
1) Monitor the effect of atmospheric loss
2) Monitor chemical and atomic fluctuation in the upper atmosphere
3) Monitor the extent through which photochemistry impacts atmospheric ozone levels
1) Monitor the effect of airglow emissions on both the night and day-side
2) Monitor the high energy collisions of electromagnetic radiation inside the magnetotail
Satellite Objectives Diagram
Data obtained from forerunner satellite missions will be vital in grasping how interplanetary communication between Earth and Venus could be impacted in the future. In a sense, the collective knowledge of orbital missions generate a chemical map of the atmosphere that future architectures will inhabit, such as the proposed In-Situ Research and Demonstration Laboratory: The Floating Allotment.
Establishing an In-Situ research platform marks the transition of Venus from an organic planetary body to that of Neo-Machine Landscape. In essence, the arrival an architecture shifts the planet’s ideologies to be rooted in synthesis rather than in nature. This manufactured conversion is inevitable as long as humanity remains at the helm of innovation and exploration. In this way, it is vital that precautions are put into place to understand the current and future state of the atmosphere, enabling the machined condition.
2. Floating Allotments
A Floating Allotment demonstrates the capabilities of an autonomous system in a hazardous environment. As such, the requirements to develop a successful architecture are prioritized first through generating the necessary scientific data from the site in question, for the purposes of this research, the atmosphere of Venus, and secondly by establishing a platform through which human-factor expansions can be executed.
Floating Allotment Glacier Conceptual Illustration
Floating Allotment Ondallix Conceptual Illustration
Floating Allotment Zephyr Conceptual Illustration
Floating Allotment Proposed Planet II Conceptual Illustration
Developing an architecture that is designed to endure the harsh conditions of the Venusian atmosphere for an extended period of time requires an in-depth analysis into the aerodynamics, external atmospheric conditions, form, function, and materials. The proposed result is an autonomous float that resides near the equator at a stable altitude of 52.4 kilometers. Incorporating the right combination of flotation gases is critical to ensure the architecture maintains hydrostatic balance. As such, the form, total mass, and location of the floating allotment has been thoroughly programmed.
Floating Allotment Proposed Planet II Diagrammatic Illustration
3. The Machined Environment
The material pallet is paramount in determining the effectiveness of an aerostat proposal in Venus’ atmosphere. The ability to resist the perpetual bombardment of Sulfuric Acid as well as maintaining the lightest total mass were the main drivers in material selection.
Stainless Steel (SS) 304 and Inconel 625 are the primary materials of construction for several reasons. Studies conducted in 2018 showed that Nickle, Platinum, Copper, and Lead demonstrated the highest risk to react and form sulfides when exposed to H2SO4 for long periods of time. However, Nickle is a strong resistant metal that exhibits remarkable tensile strength. A small amount of Nickle has proven to be more beneficial than none at all, as the amount of strength that it provides to the overall material composition is greater than the vulnerability it has toward Sulfuric Acid. SS 304 has an optimal amount of Nickle (roughly 8%) to provide that strength boon, while letting Iron and Chromium do the majority of the work. In accordance with this, Iron and Chromium are both lighter metals than Nickle (55.8, 51.9, and 58.7 Grams / Molar Mass), allowing the overall mass of SS 304 (53.1135 Grams / Molar Mass), and the Gondola itself, to be evaluated at an efficient mark. SS 304 is the optimal secondary material to support the primary, Inconel 625.
Inconel 625 has demonstrated its ability to be highly resistant to corrosive properties, with studies showing that the super-alloy is less brittle when exposed to higher temperatures 17. These qualities are ideal when discussing the Venusian atmosphere due to the potentially large fluctuations of heat from the planet’s super-rotation and global albedo effects. For these reasons, Inconel 625 can be considered one of the more complete metals when designing a long-term mission to Venus’ atmosphere. The super-alloy will be the primary material used to construct the Gondola, with many of the internal support and Tether systems fashioned out of SS 304 to reduce the total mass.
Floating Allotment Transverse Section
Floating Allotment Plan
Floating Allotment Longitudinal Section
The entire system is held in equilibrium buoyance through a system of piping that controls and directs a series of flotation gases within the architecture. The process through which gases are deposited into the aerostat has been proven to work through the Maxwell-Boltzmann Velocity Distribution Law, which describes how the speed of individual gas molecules is affected through temperature. As the temperature rapidly changes during the descent of the Floating Allotment from orbit, the gas molecules within the Tethers will become excited, allowing for an intense amount of pressure to be released into the aerostat. Thereby providing a rapid boost in lifting potential during the initial descent, as well as a high level of altitude control once deployed.
Floating Allotment Air Flow Diagram
Floating Allotment Tether Concept
4. Scientific + Technical Objectives
The scientific objectives for the In-Situ research platform are as follows:
1) Study heavy molecular ions
2) Monitor the meridional transfer of heat
3) Test the chemical production process of OH from O3
Heavy molecular ions (O2+ / CO2 + / N2+ / CO+ / NO+) have a tendency to escape Venus’ atmosphere through a plasma sheet. This is not the case for traditional ions, as generally they are gravitationally bound to the planet. The current theory for why heavy molecular ions supersede the gravitational effects lie with the interaction between external solar effects. Further testing of the intricacies of heavy molecular ions’ atmospheric escape will provide additional measurements on the rate and quantity through which these ions are departing. This research, in conjunction with continued testing of the Bates-Nicolet mechanism and Kirchoff ’s Law of radiation, could lead to a breakthrough in replicating additional methods of producing H2O and O2 in hazardous and alien environments.
Generating a formula for how the Bates-Nicolet mechanism can be applied to the chemical reactions within Venus’ atmosphere will provide details on how the complex photochemistry of each atmospheric strata interacts with each other. Moreover, an elevated acumen regarding the planet’s thermal gradient pressure can be established within the same research process. Greater insight on these two processes could enable the synthetic process of reverse-engineering the chemical reactions between O3, AO, H, and OH; allowing for yet another method of decomposing existing compounds into vital resources such as O2 and H2O.
The technical objectives for the In-Situ research platform are as follows:
1) Test the durability of the built environment in preparation for human-centered design additions
2) Test the reliability of data and information transfer technology
3) Experience the atmospheric habitable zone first-hand
4) Enable the arrival of human-tested habitat expansions in the future
Constructing an architectural platform that is able to withstand the hazardous conditions of the Venusian atmosphere is a challenging task. Material selection has a greater impact than in other scenarios, both for the survivability of the mission at hand and for conducting research that can be applied to future iterations. The same concept of material selection is applicable to the protective strategies put in place for the various equipment on-board. Two main obstacles will plague the developmental stages of establishing the Floating Allotment: maintaining a connection between orbiters and the Laboratory and forging a built environment that can withstand hazardous atmospheric conditions while being accessible to maintenance.
Consequently, the secondary role of a floating allotment is to prepare the site for the pending arrival of a human presence, albeit for a short duration. The architecture must be designed to quell the demands of human-centered expansions, as well as preserve its core function of operating as an autonomous scientific and technical demonstration platform.
Floating Allotment Egress Section
Venus is the most accessible planet to Earth. It presents a plethora of atmospheric factors and concepts that are foreign to the rest of the solar system, yet abundant in the greater scope of the cosmos. Extreme shifts in pressure and temperature between stratas in the atmosphere, a heightened global albedo level, a planetary defining super-rotation effect, and strange reactions between foundational compounds and heavy molecular ions. Investing in a series of missions that are dedicated at unveiling the secrets of Venus’ atmosphere is the first step in truly preparing the future of human civilization for the challenges of the universe. Establishing In-Situ research stations in conjunction with a network of satellites enables the archival of these bizarre atmospheric interactions. In this way, humanity’s comfort and readiness level with regards to extra-planetary exploration will be raised due to the technical and scientific knowledge gained from investing in Venus’ atmosphere. As such, a greater percentage of future destinations can be considered habitable, expanding the scope through which the arms of humanity can grace the stars.
Venus can be the gateway for deep-space exploration. A proving-ground for hostile environments and delicate technology. An answer to future problems lies at the doorstep of Earth. Let’s take advantage of it.
The full-length thesis titled, Long-Term Analysis of Venus’ Atmosphere through an In-Situ Research + Technical Demonstration Laboratory, can be found here.
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