Northrop Grumman Corp. has formed a scientific advisory board to guide its efforts to develop a lighter-than-air vehicle to explore Venus's environment. The company's Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform (VAMP) concept is a long-lived, maneuverable, semi-buoyant platform that would coast through Venus's clouds gathering atmospheric data. The board will help define specific science goals, measurement requirements, and identify possible instruments for VAMP missions. It will also serve as a science analysis group to mine existing data about Venus that may be useful to the VAMP mission.
As currently envisioned VAMP will be a delta-wing shaped inflatable air vehicle with a 55 meter wing span that resembles the Northrop Grumman-designed Flying Wing and its B-2 bomber. It is being designed to be inflated and deployed in orbit and "float" like a leaf into Venus's atmosphere, where it could operate for more than year.
VAMP is the first application for the Lifting Entry/Atmospheric Flight (LEAF) family of vehicles that could serve as atmospheric "rovers," going to any solar system body with an atmosphere, including Venus, Earth, Mars and Saturn's moon Titan.
Although the surface of Venus is hot and hostile, its atmosphere at 50 kilometers is Earth-like and its clouds hold the key to the difference. Understanding Venus' evolutionary path may shed light on Earth's evolution and the origin of life.