Balls to launch satellites into orbit: this is the strange idea that has come to a group of researchers from the Finnish meteorological institute led by Pekka Janhunen.
These are steam-powered “hot-air balloons” that could carry rockets complete with satellites at high altitude. Given that in this layer of the atmosphere the air is thinner, throwing the above rockets and satellites in orbit around the Earth from this position is much easier and less expensive. Furthermore, the same balls could be reused because they were designed to return to the ground.
This is not an absolutely new idea: similar tests have already been carried out using hydrogen or helium balloons. However these techniques have shown their disadvantages: helium is very expensive while hydrogen is dangerous because it is flammable.
To explain the new technology with steam-powered balloons is the same Janhunen in the statement published on the site of the same Finnish meteorological institute: “The balloon is filled with hot steam on the ground and released. As the balloon rises, part of the water vapor condenses. Condensation releases a lot of latent heat, which slows down the cooling and helps keep the remaining vapor in the gaseous state. After reaching a sufficiently high altitude, the rocket is released, lights up and flies into space. The balloon is emptied of steam, goes down and can be collected for reuse.”
The same researchers calculate that the weight of the rocket transported could even be 10 tons while the satellite that could carry could weigh even hundreds of kilograms.
The design study appeared on arXiv and was conducted by Pekka Janhunen, Petri Toivanen, Kimmo Ruosteenoja.