June 21, 2013
On Friday, the Aeronautics Academy was fortunate to meet with Tony Colozza over lunch to discuss atmospheric flight on other bodies in the solar system. This was of particular interest to the Academites, as their group project involves developing an aircraft that can fly on Titan. Tony has worked on a number of planetary flight vehicle proposals, including the Mars Scout proposal ARES, which was to be an aircraft that would fly on Mars. ARES matured quite deep into the design phase, but lost out to the Phoenix lander which landed in 2007.
Tony was able to help the Academy significantly in answering questions about their mission. He gave an overview of options for flight on many planets, such as Venus, Mars, and Titan, which included balloons, airships, and airplanes. He spoke about general mission goals and the need for a long mission duration. Titan is a relatively unknown world, and any information that this mission can gather will be beneficial, but in order to sell the mission, it must have a long duration. He also discussed payload instruments and requirements with the team.
Then the team spoke with Tony about lessons from ARES that could be applied to their project. Of specific interest, he explained the mechanism by which the aircraft folded up, and deployed its wings after entry into the Martian atmosphere. The Titan aircraft will likely use similar concepts. They also spoke about propulsion options on Titan, including electric propulsion using an RTG, as well as combustion engines, using either the methane in Titan’s atmosphere as a fuel reacting with onboard oxygen, or combustion of a metal such as Titanium or Magnesium in Nitrogen.