Rocket-Balloon Apparatus from zero2infinity Launching Nanosatellites Soon

Along with technology advancements, our planet’s orbit has started to “grow” more and more artificial satellites, both privately and governmentally owned. Their number will surely grow in the future, especially now that NASA has developed its tiny CubeSats. Still, we need a way to cheaply put them in orbit.
bloostar rockoon 4 photos
Photo: zero2infinity
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As you might know, reaching the Earth’s orbit is not that simple, such an operation costing a few tens of thousands dollars per pound needing to be sent there. But Spain based experimental space balloon company zero2infinity suggests their rocket-balloon concept will do the job for less cash.

"Nanosatellites today need to fly as secondary payloads, and hitchhike their way into orbit," says José Mariano López-Urdiales, CEO and Founder of zero2infinity. "We have been working on the idea for bloostar for years. Now the technology on both the satellite and launch vehicle sides is mature enough to make it happen. Many new successful companies have business plans based on nanosatellites, like Skybox Imaging, but the dedicated launcher that they would need, doesn’t exist yet. The launch industry needs to be transformed and adapt to the real necessity of providing small payloads with the flexibility to pick their own orbit and their launch date."

Whatever they’re trying to push here, it has been done already, with balloon-fitted rockets dating back to 1949 when James A. Van Allen and other scientists developed the concept.

How it works?

The concept is pretty simple. A rocket needs fuel to take off and leave the Earth (or stop on the orbit). However, cuts can be trimmed by using another type of propulsion to take the rocket up into the thinner part of the atmosphere first and then start the engines.

That’s the part where buoyancy kicks in. You’ve probably played with helium-filled rubber balloons, right? Well, that’s the idea here too, but a bit more complex than that.

Highly resistant helium balloons will lift rocket engines, fuel and cargo to an altitude of over 30 km (18.6 mi) which is basically above 99% of the Earth’s atmosphere. With the air being so rarefied up there, you can count out its resistance.

This means the “rockoon” (or bloostar, as the company calls it) won’t even need to be shaped like a traditional rocket and be streamlined and a set of simple liquid-fueled engines could be started to continue the trip from there.

Contrary to some’s opinions, the method proposed by zero2infinity the drag will be close to zero, the fuel quantity needed for a flight is highly reduced, and the engines will work better since they fire in near-vacuum, thus creating a higher specific impulse.

Testing already begun last year in September with a balloon flight that went up to 27 km (16.7 mi) above sea level. The company gathered over $200 million in pre-orders and the functional system will be released within two years.

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