In order to revisit Venus and explore its climate, atmosphere, and surface for the first time since the 1985 VeGa mission, NASA is interested in developing aerial vehicles capable of in situ investigation. Four potential aerial platforms: fixed altitude super-pressure balloons, variable altitude balloons, solar airplanes, and hybrid airships were evaluated by JPL for their mission suitability according to scientific merit, size and complexity, and technological maturity. This downselection is critical as the aerial platform must float and fly between 52 and 62 km in the atmosphere while experiencing temperatures ranging from -30°C to 62°C, pressures from 80 kPA to 18 kPA, solar fluxes as high as 2,300 W/m2, and IR heat flux up to 830 W/m2. Balancing these three selection criteria, JPL identified variable altitude controlled robotic balloons, or aerobots, as an optimized and achievable solution for near-term Venusian in situ atmospheric exploration.
To fill this critical gap and enable aerobot exploration on Venus, Air Squared proposes the Helium Transfer Scroll Pump System (HTSPS); a semi-hermetic, orbiting scroll, oil-free helium transfer pump proof-of-concept experiment coupled to a venting method for altitude control to be pursued in Phase I.