By Mike Wall, Senior Writer   |   March 03, 2014 07:01am ET
Airship Cruising through Skies of Saturn's Moon Titan
Artist’s concept of an inflatable airship cruising through the skies of Saturn’s huge moon Titan. Aerospace firms Northrop Grumman and L’Garde have been developing a Venus-specific version of this vehicle called VAMP (short for Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform).
Credit: Northrop-Grumman

A big robotic airship could ply the skies of Venus for up to a year, giving scientists an unprecedented look at Earth’s hellishly hot “sister planet,” the craft’s developers say.

For the past year, engineers at aerospace firms Northrop Grumman and L’Garde have been working on an unmanned concept vehicle called the Venus Atmospheric Maneuverable Platform. Using a mixture of powered flight and passive floating, VAMP could stay aloft for long periods, collecting a variety of data about Venus and its atmosphere.

Further, no big breakthroughs are required to get VAMP — which remains in the design phase — up and running, team members say. [Mysterious Venus: 10 Weird Facts]

“There are no major technology unknowns,” Northrop Grumman’s Kristen Griffin told in December at the American Geophysical Union’s annual fall meeting in San Francisco. “It really is something that could be developed when the [scientific] community is ready for it.”

Continue reading…