Experimental investigation of undesired stable equilibria in pumpkin shape super-pressure balloon designs
Excess in skin material of a pneumatic envelope beyond what is required for minimum enclosure of a gas bubble is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for the existence of multiple equilibrium configurations for that pneumatic envelope. The very design of structurally efficient super-pressure balloons of the pumpkin shape type requires such excess. Undesired stable equilibria in pumpkin shape balloons have been observed on experimental pumpkin shape balloons. These configurations contain regions with stress levels far higher than those predicted for the cyclically symmetric design configuration under maximum pressurization. Successful designs of pumpkin shape super-pressure balloons do not allow such undesired stable equilibria under full pressurization. This work documents efforts made so far and describes efforts still underway by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Balloon Program Office to arrive on guidance on the design of pumpkin shape super-pressure balloons that guarantee full and proper deployment.