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LOHAN rival to inflate bulging orbs with hydrogen

Trifling explosion hazard outweighed by greater buoyancy

We at the El Reg Special Projects Bureau are well aware that some of you are less than impressed with the choice of lifting gas for our Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) project.

Well, we're not going to be swayed on the matter, but the Hindenberg fans among you are directed to the STARS Project, a private High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) initiative comprising "a series of near-space remote sensing missions showing how indivuduals can explore space and perform real science, without the budget of a global super-power or a multinational aerospace company".

The blurb elaborates: "The mission objective is to launch an instrument package to over 100,000ft (30km), record measurements and images throughout the flight, track the package through its descent phase to landing, and retrieve the data."

There's more background on kit and methodology down at the STARS website, but the bit about balloons caught our eye. The team couldn't get a 1.5kg balloon (the size of PARIS's impressive orb) and will use a 1kg one instead.

They note: "We haven't ordered lifting gas yet. Because we've had to take a hit on the payload weight, and use a much smaller balloon, we're now considering a hydrogen fill, rather than helium, for the added buoyancy. Obviously, we're going to have to take anti-static precautions during the fill, but it should compensate to some extent for the loss of lift. We will need to agree with the CAA that a hydrogen fill will be acceptable.

"On the plus side, hydrogen's cheap as chips to make, compared to helium – you just electrolyse water, or use a catalyst reaction – so we might save a pound or two."

STARS main man Jon Green tells us he's "still mulling over the lifting gas problem", and says in the end it's down to the Civil Aviation Authority whether hydrogen is a goer.

And before you lot start banging on again about LOHAN and hydrogen, let's clarify our position on this lightweight element. We like hydrogen. It can be combined with oxygen to create water – a substance of moderate interest which is elevated to greatness when used to make beer.

Hydrogen is also a vital ingredient of C10H14N2 (or 3-(1-methylpyrrolidin-2-yl)pyridine to its mates), which is precisely why we won't be using it.

Nonetheless, we wish STARS well, and look forward to seeing the results of their audacious hydrogen plan. ®

A tip of the hat to our LOHAN associates OpenPilot

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