Design and Analysis of a Martian airship

By Laurène Delsupexhe - Crew Engineer


This project is led by Laurène Delsupexhe the crew Engineer with the help of Alice Barthe the Crew Data Scientist and EPFL Master student Roméo Tonasso. It is done in Collaboration with the Mars Society Switzerland President Pierre Brisson and with the support of former Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier

The objective of the study is:

  1. To determine the mass that could be lifted by a Martian airship of reasonable size, i.e. transportable in mass and volume, deflated, in a spacecraft from Earth to Mars, such as the Starship or NASA’s SLS Block 2 Cargo (130 tons lifting capacity to LEO, fairing of 10 meters diameter by 31 meters height, payload volume 1800 m3), according to the horizontal speed of displacement that could be supplied to it (evaluation of the minimum speed necessary for enough lift).
  2. Depending on this mass, see which instruments could be put aboard (cameras, spectrographs, radars, possibly a mini rover), in addition to the equipment necessary for the operation of the airship and its communication needs.
  3. Depending on the available payload mass, consider that the balloon could possibly land and take-off. This would make it possible to release small robots on the ground capable of taking samples or continuing observations, on the ground or underground (drilling or cave exploration). Possibility to use the drop in temperature at night in order to land (cooling of the carrier gas).

Ideally, the airship would be controlled in real time from a manned station on the planet's surface. A mission controlled from Earth would obviously be more difficult to consider on account of the 3 to 23 minute "time-lag" resulting from the light-distance between the planets. It would require much more autonomy of the vehicle, including to avoid obstacles, but it is not impossible. Programming of the rudder steering and engine stop and start system, under the control of an on-board radar would be necessary.


For any questions or enquiries about this project, please contact Laurene directly at