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"Stratosphere Tractor" High Altitude Balloon Intercept And Capture System

High altitude balloon with hybrid jet / rocket engine and grappling arm. (Now with reusable missile)
  [vote for,

High altitude balloon retrieval system consisting of:

1- High altitude balloon comprising the main lifting element.

2- A hybrid jet / rocket engine maneuvering system on an omnidirectional gimbal.

3- A grappling arm to grab and retrieve target balloon.

4- A method of popping the target balloon, gun, puncturing tool etc.

Several configurations are possible, in the "no rush" configuration the balloon is simply filled and floated on an intercept course to the target balloon. At a certain level the jet engine kicks in to close into the target and once air gets thin enough a simple rocket engine system is activated for final maneuvering and capture of the target via the remote-controlled grappling arm.

Various rush configurations could be created where it's flown to altitude by jet engines, tanks of lifting gas fill the balloon (and are dropped when they are empty) and the jet / rocket maneuvering system that's appropriate for the altitude is kicked in.

And of course the balloon could be done away with all together using only the jet / rocket but you start getting into time limits, expense etc. If you're in a such a hurry you'd probably be looking at just shooting it down anyway.

You'd fly to the target balloon, get closeup video of the payload, grab the suspension cable with the grappling arm, puncture the balloon, even controlling the amount of lifting gas released to most effectively bring the unit down to the desired landing point where it can be studied in one piece if necessary.

At the point of interception, obviously other steps can be taken with the target balloon payload including disrupting or destroying it if necessary.

doctorremulac3, Feb 18 2023

If for no other reason than to save money... https://aviationwee...ared-shot-down-usaf
and embarrassment. [doctorremulac3, Feb 20 2023]

Ingenuity https://mars.nasa.g...elicopter/index.cfm
[a1, Feb 22 2023]

Air pressure at altitude calculator https://www.omnical...ressure-at-altitude
Air pressure is about 6 percent at 60.000 ft as it turns out. [Voice, Feb 22 2023]

This is the angle you want to see it from https://www.bbc.com...-us-canada-64735538
[a1, Feb 23 2023]

Fulton recovery system https://en.wikipedi...air_recovery_system
Some variation on this? [gtoal, Feb 24 2023]


       Since balloons go where the air is going there isn't much of an intercept course without adding energy. You'll need the jet on all the time, It would be much more efficient to use a drone. Maybe a high altitude drone blimp?   

       You could have a few guys drive a truck out ahead of the projected path and use a ballast system to close with it. And then vent air from your own balloon after interception. And then collect your balloon from property owners and/or a lake.   

       It's a pretty hard problem: launching a balloon costs much less than intercepting it, and this scales to any number of balloons. Each balloon launched costs a hundred balloons worth of flight time and bullets.(or any other method of interception) At least the US can do the same thing to China.
Voice, Feb 22 2023

       I've got another thought on this, just an air launched reusable missile that has folding wings so that when it reaches the balloon it can reduce power and fly around the payload taking pictures and relaying information. If necessary it then shoots a hole in the balloon to cause it to slowly descend keeping the payload reasonably intact for further evaluation.   

       Here's the good part, it's called "Switchblade". The Switchblade anti LTA system. (Because the wings swing out like a switchblade.) Might call it Stiletto. Either one's cool.   

       Oh, and after it's done its job it just glides to an appropriate landing spot where it pops a parachute and is recovered for re-use. Might have landing gear as well, but then it's got limitations on where it can land so a parachute's probably better.
doctorremulac3, Feb 22 2023

       The Switchblade drone flight ceiling is advertised as "over 15,000 feet" meaning well below 20,000 feet. The balloon the F-22 shot down was 55,000 to 60,000 feet. But! We're flying drones on Mars, so it has to be possible to make a version that can reach balloon heights. Maybe a high altitude version of Switchblade riding its own balloon to above the enemy balloon and then cutting the line to attack.
Voice, Feb 22 2023

       // flying drones on Mars //   

       There are several differences between Ingenuity's operational theatre and anything here on Earth. It weighs less than 4 pounds. It can lift off in the thin Mars atmosphere - less than 1% the density of Earth's 0 but only has to contend with 1/3 Eart;s gravitational pull. Its flight time is limited to about 90 seconds, distances of around 980 feet, and about 10 to 15 feet from the ground.   

       It wouldn't do as well on Earth - and wouldn't be a match for a Guypal or Malagor on Barsoom either.
a1, Feb 22 2023

       It's glide ratio in thin atmosphere that matters IMO. If it can fly in 1% pressure at 1/3 g that's a longer glideslope in 1 g and much higher pressure, no?
Voice, Feb 22 2023

       // Air pressure is about 6 percent at 60.000 ft //

       // It's glide ratio in thin atmosphere that matters //

       True - but how are you getting up there in the first place?   

       Edit to add - after looking at altitude records for various aircraft type, I think squadrons of solar powered, remotely controlled airplanes kept aloft on a near constant basis over sensitive areas would be a good approach for balloon interception.
a1, Feb 22 2023

       I still think high- altitude loitering balloon-supported nets are the way to go. They should be anchored to space elevators. Anchoring means the suspect balloon will come to you, so you don't have to chase after it. Netting means something offering less air resistance than the object to be caught. The required energy would be limited to however much you needed to move the net up and down like a giant pong paddle.   

       Thus you may re-characterise the construction of the space elevators as a national security imperative.
pertinax, Feb 23 2023

       Okay, got it.   

       The retrieval system works like this. The grappling arm grabs a piece of the balloon, drills into it and controls the release of helium or hydrogen such that it can be guided in a controlled descent carrying its own weight.   

       When it gets low enough, the turbojet engine kicks in and steers what's now become a dirigible to the desired landing spot where it can be gently touched down.   

       I'd also add any number of electronic communication blocking mechanism so the payload would be cut off from communication while it was getting captured.   

       So the stages are:   

       1- Launched from fighter jet.   

       2- Turbojet carries to altitude   

       3- Rocket kicks in for maneuvering around and capturing balloon   

       4- Grappling arm grabs a fold of balloon, drills into it with a tube and releases controlled amount of lifting gas to begin descent.   

       5- At appropriate altitude, turbojet fires up and pulls the balloon and payload, dirigible style, to the chosen landing spot.   

       6- Balloon and payload is captured, on the ground fully intact with nothing but a hole in one side of the balloon, and even that has a valve on it.   

       Could even throw a patch on it and re-use it if you wanted.
doctorremulac3, Feb 23 2023

       I want a scale model version to use at children's parties
pocmloc, Feb 23 2023


doctorremulac3, Feb 23 2023

       Okay, most simplified version, the Dagger LTA capture system.   

       Simple, solid fuel rocket that is launched at target balloon, flies through it but deposits a pair of remote controlled valves on each side of the balloon.   

       These valves are used to release the lifting gas in a controlled fashion to facilitate a soft landing of the balloon and it's payload.
doctorremulac3, Feb 24 2023


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