One mode of planetary research involves balloons. They are relatively low cost, cover more area than a rover, obtain better resolution than an orbiter, and can collect data about the atmosphere [2]. From the study of their atmospheres, scientists believe that six planets and one moon of Saturn (Titan) can support balloon flights. According to scientists, Mars atmosphere may present the fewest challenges, allowing for a quicker timeline in using balloons [2]. At NASA's Wallops Flight Facility (WFF), experimental research has been conducted on one meter model Montgolfiere, Paraballoons, and Para-Montgolfiere balloons. The balloons were constructed of thin (0.6 mil), flexible material (co-extruded polyethylene) and deployed from relatively low altitudes (213 m) and observed. Inflation time, stability of the balloon, and the terminal velocity of the system were of particular interest.

One hundred twenty-four deployments were performed on WFF's airfield. Variables investigated were balloon type (Montgolfiere [Mf], Paraballoon [P], Para-Montgolfiere [PM]), payload weight (2.224, 16.01, 23.13, or 31.14 N), burble fence (y/n), and the number of scoops open (0, 4, 12, 24). Thirty- four cases were chosen for deployment from the combination of these variables. While conducting experiments, the time of day, pressure, temperature, relative humidity, altitude, wind speed, wind direction, and video (both from the ground and onboard) were recorded for use in analyzing the results.

Results showed that the Para-Montgolfiere balloons inflated the most quickly, although Paraballoons inflated just about as quickly. Montgolfiere balloons took approximately three times longer to inflate than the last two. The burble fence stabilized the balloon almost completely. Without the burble fence the balloons rotated, a coning phenomenon occurred between the balloon and payload, and an indent formed on the surface of the balloon at the stagnation point, which did not correspond to the base of the balloon. For larger balloons, especially stratospheric balloons, it has been suggested to use a Para- Montgolfiere balloon with a burble fence.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Ballooning; Hot air balloons--Launching; Mars (Planet)--Exploration

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Mechanical Engineering (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Mechanical Engineering (KGCOE)


Elizabeth DeBartolo

Advisor/Committee Member

Jeffrey Kozak

Advisor/Committee Member

P. Venkataraman


Physical copy available from RIT's Wallace Library at QB641 .L46 2005


RIT – Main Campus