Steam balloon to facilitate satellite launches

Steam balloon to facilitate satellite launches
Steam balloon variants. During ascent the ambient pressure decreases and consequently the gases expand. If the balloon is filled by steam partially (Variant 1), the expanding steam eventually fills the balloon. If the lower part is filled by hot air (Variant 2), extra air flows out from the bottom during the ascent. If the balloon is filled by steam entirely (Variant 3), the exiting gas is steam. Credit: Finnish Meteorological Institute

Steam balloons could be used to lift space rockets to higher altitude for launch. Launching from high altitude reduces air drag and thus improves efficiency. The researchers present the method in an article published in The Aeronautical Journal.

Launching satellites to orbit becomes easier if the is first lifted to where the air is thin. Indeed, small rockets have been sometimes launched from an aircraft or a balloon. However, using hydrogen or has its drawbacks, because hydrogen is flammable while helium is expensive.

In a recent study, scientists working at the Finnish Meteorological Institute propose to use hot steam as the lifting gas.

"The balloon is filled by hot steam on ground and released. As the balloon ascends, part of the water vapor condenses. The condensation releases a lot of latent heat, which slows down the cooling and helps maintain the remaining vapor in gaseous state," says the lead author Pekka Janhunen. "After reaching sufficiently high altitude, the rocket is released, it ignites and flies into space. The balloon is emptied of vapor, it descends and may be collected for reuse."

The study presents a to simulate the ascent of a steam balloon and the associated cooling of the steam up to 18 kilometer altitude. The weight of the carried rocket can vary, but could be for example 10 tonnes, which is enough to a satellite of a few hundred kilogram mass. Besides rockets, the steam balloon could be used to lift anything into the stratosphere, and the method is safe and inexpensive at least on paper.


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More information: P. Janhunen et al. Steam balloon concept for lifting rockets to launch altitude, The Aeronautical Journal (2019). DOI: 10.1017/aer.2019.10
Provided by Finnish Meteorological Institute
Citation: Steam balloon to facilitate satellite launches (2019, August 21) retrieved 16 September 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2019-08-steam-balloon-satellite.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
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Aug 21, 2019
Well, that's a novel take on the 'Rockoon' approach !!
After my giggles at this truly 'Steam Punk' tech, I realised that's it's related to thunderheads / cumulo-nimbus. Having condensate drain would be good. Colliding droplets creating tribo-electricity within the balloon would be 'interesting'...

Aug 21, 2019
Sounds like a good alternative. Helium is expensive because it is non-renewable. Once it escapes, it rises into space, leaving the earth forever.

And yeah, steam punk!

Aug 21, 2019
Choo - Choo - rockets

Whatever next
Newcomen's atmospheric engine
Invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712
Newcomen engines operated by condensing steam creating a partial vacuum
Allowing the atmospheric pressure to expand

The theory behind Thomas Newcomen's atmospheric engine reads like a who's who of rocket propulsion

p.s. and to think we're making preparation for our trip to mars – well, the best of British luck!

Aug 21, 2019
Well, that's a novel take on the 'Rockoon' approach !!
After my giggles at this truly 'Steam Punk' tech
I think everyone reading the article must have been on the same page. I will add a coal-car. Cause hey, if you just kept shoveling coal, the thing should just keep going up...
And a caboose for good measure.

Aug 21, 2019
So far this is science not engineering; it's a good idea, but we'll see what happens during implementation.

Aug 21, 2019
Choo - Choo - rockets

Whatever next
Newcomen's atmospheric engine
Invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712
Newcomen engines operated by condensing steam creating a partial vacuum
Allowing the atmospheric pressure to expand
Hey look what I found

"Obsessive-compulsive rhyming disorder is a psychiatric disorder, like that of a obsessive hoarder, most often found north of the US-Mexico border. Known in short form as OCRD as well as by those with ADD, it is characterized by distressing, intrusive thoughts that may leave one's stomach tied up in knots. Sufferers neutralize these obsessions by creating lyrical successions that, at least in part, resemble a rhyme or poem of the heart..."

-See that? Otto knows us better than we know ourselves.

Get help dude.

I understand treatment may include henbane or absynthe.
Or heck, even parsley sage, rosemary and thyme.

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