Titan Winged Aerobot (TWA)
Your mission is to explore the atmosphere and surface of Saturn’s moon, Titan, a cold, harsh environment that poses many technical challenges for any potential exploration platform. Imagine an inflatable, flying wing-glider that could enter Titan’s atmosphere from orbit, execute controlled movements in atmospheric flight, and descend to the surface for scientific measurement or payload delivery. The Titan Winged Aerobot (TWA) is a maneuverable buoyant glider that employs a combination of buoyancy changes and wing lift to generate forward motion, enabling long-duration flight in the Titan atmosphere. Using shifts of internal air to change attitude, the vehicle has the ability to execute tight turns for precision targeting of locations at the surface. The design leverages buoyancy and mass-balancing for aerodynamic stability, eliminating the need for complex aerodynamic features or control surfaces of any kind. TWA’s buoyancy control system is characterized by short time constants for greater maneuverability and obstacle avoidance. The flight systems can operate on just half of the electrical power from a single Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), leaving the remaining power for science instrumentation and utilizing the waste heat for payload thermal control. This system can perform entry from Titan orbit without an aeroshell or high-temperature thermal protection materials, enabling high altitude in-situ atmospheric sampling during descent. TWA responds to the NASA need for altitude and positional control for Titan aerial vehicles. In addition, there has been recent science interest in precision targeting of probes on the Titan surface, which is difficult due to the deep atmosphere and high-altitude winds. With the addition of modest lifting capability during entry and subsonic glide and additional lift gas during atmospheric gliding cruise, precision targeting of several landers and ocean floaters may be possible.
Hanger Test of TWA Prototype