This engineer is searching for signs of life in the clouds of Venus – Create – create digital

Designing dirigibles

In addition to his interest in microbes and cloud moisture, Dorrington is also exploring the use of super-pressure balloons for probing the Venus cloud layers.

In 2010, as part of RMITs School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, the aeronautical engineer authored a paper that presented preliminary evidence for drizzle in the middle cloud layer of Venus.

A decade later, he recommended that, to acquire long duration in situ measurements of all three cloud layers, further investigation into the use of phase change balloons was needed.

For short duration missions, descent probes offer the highest scientific payload mass fractions and lowest risk, Dorrington said.

It would be wonderful to be involved in engineering a balloon for the Venus Life Finder project that would carry a meteorological instrument and be capable of circumnavigation.

It wouldnt be Dorringtons first foray into dirigible design. He previously designed and built an ultra-light, teardrop-shaped aircraft which he flew over the forest canopies of Guyana.

I was fortunate to hold an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship concerned with tropical rainforest canopy exploration, he said.

Tropical rain forest canopy is one of the most biodiverse biomes on Earth, and I remain convinced that aeronautical platforms not yet conceived can be developed to assist the safe exploration of this high frontier.

Born in the United Kingdom, Dorringtons interest in engineering and aeronautics began at the age of seven, when he was inspired by a childrens book, the Valiant Book of Conquest of the Air.

As well the great painted pictures of balloons, airships and high-speed aircraft, it included profiles of famous aeronautical engineers such as Barnes Wallis and Frank Whittle, who I briefly met at a conference 20 years later, he said.

He has worked with organisations including the European Space Agency, British Aerospace (BAe) and Queen Mary University of London.

After graduation, I had a short stint at BAe Space and Communications working on satellite propulsion systems, he said.

I then did a PhD followed by fellowship at [the European Space Agencys European Space Research and Technology Centre] working on future reusable space launch systems.

I think my most significant contribution from this period was a student conference paper proposing the development of reusable suborbital vehicles.

Peter Diamandis (CEO of the Zero Gravity Corporation) was in the audience and went on to create the Ansari X-prize, which was won by Burt Rutan with Spaceship One.

Since emigrating to Australia in 2011, Dorrington has become interested in trying to find better solutions to aerial wildfire fighting.

He was also part of an RMIT team working on a mini radar to find water on the moon.

In a future, post-fossil-fuel burning world, Dorrington believes aeronautical engineering will need to supply sustainable solutions to permit significantly reduced net CO2 emission air transportation.

This is one of the biggest challenges and we need the brightest and best young people to start working on this, since it may be several decades before we solve all the difficult technical problems, he said.

But back to space exploration, he said much of the knowledge we now have of the solar system was obtained through the combined efforts of international space agencies, especially NASA.

The recent formation of the Australian Space Agency will hopefully allow Australian scientists and engineers to better contribute to this international effort, he added.

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This engineer is searching for signs of life in the clouds of Venus - Create - create digital

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