BIG BLUE V Final Flight: Inflatable-Wing Mars Airplane Balloon-Launched Flight Test

Grants and Contracts Details


Abstract The objective of the final phase of the BIG BLUE program is to positively impact the development of NASA's future workforce by establishing sustainable opportunities for students and faculty based on the successes ofthe first years of the BIG BLUE inflatable-wing Mars airplane project. Included in this final phase of the program is the culminating flight experiment to demonstrate the feasibility of inflatable wings for Mars exploration and efforts to expand and to sustain the opportunities for workforce development and public outreach. The BIG BLUE project involves undergraduate students in a unique opportunity to experience the excitement of research and development of a complex aerospace system including state-of-the-art technology and interaction with aerospace industry professionals. In essence, students join the aerospace workforce while participating in this project, influencing their decision to choose and pursue an aerospace career when such a choice is less likely without their involvement. Four overlapping and complimentary efforts comprise the final two years ofthe BIG BLUE program: I) BB4: low-density aircraft development and flight testing, 2) BB4: autonomous technology development for student UA V competitions, 3) BBV: the culminating balloonlaunched inflatable-wing Mars airplane flight experiment and 4) BBV: expanding the impact of the BIG BLUE multi-disciplinary Mars exploration R&D project as a focus for aerospace workforce development. The first two efforts are underway with significant accomplishments in 2006. A separate proposal has been submitted for the BBV: Workforce Development. This proposal is for the third effort listed above to develop and conduct the final flight experiment of the BIG BLUE project. Previous BIG BLUE efforts have demonstrated successful APRS communications (BBI), successful inflation and curing of inflatable-rigidizable wings (BBII), a successful inflation system for the vectran inflatable wings (BB3), a successful aircraft design including rigid wings (BB3) and inflatable wings (BB4), successful autopilot operation for low-altitude flight testing and UA V competitions (BB4), successful high-altitude balloon launches in CO with EOSS (BBI, BBII, BB3), successful power management and monitoring (BBII), among other technologies necessary for the final flight test. Two remaining design efforts are required: I) a lightweight fuselage integrated with all the required flight systems and payloads and 2) long-range communications systems for the Cloudcap, Inc. Piccolo autopilot. This effort includes developing the final experiment design, training the students involved, designing the remaining systems, building and testing the hardware and software, conducting necessary stepping-stone experiments to verify systems operations and conducting the final flight experiment.
Effective start/end date8/1/065/31/07


  • Western Kentucky University: $80,000.00


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