Feeds

Record flight is step toward HYPERSONIC SPACE AIRSHIP

Ion-drive dirigibles to orbit from aerial 'Dark Sky' base

Seven Steps to Software Security

Inventors in America are claiming an altitude record for airships after a recent test flight in which an unmanned electrically-propelled helium dirigible successfully manoeuvred under power at 95,085 feet above the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. The "Tandem" craft is intended to demonstrate the first stage of radical plans which would see enormous, permanently inhabited "Dark Sky Stations" floating high in the atmosphere at the edge of space - to act as bases for radical hypersonic airships which would slowly fly themselves into orbit over a period of days using hybrid ion drive propulsion.

Somewhat more conventional extreme-high-altitude airships along the lines of the Tandem, flown above Nevada on October 22, would serve as shuttles carrying people and cargoes from the surface up to the colossal, mile-wide Dark Sky air/spaceports floating at 140,000 feet up.

The "Airship to Orbit" scheme comes to us from American DIY volunteer space collective JP Aerospace, founded by engineer John Powell, which has been developing high altitude balloons, rockets and combo rocket/balloon missions (aka rockoons, or in the parlance of our own Special Projects Bureau, ballockets) since 1979. JP Aerospace has now moved on beyond conventional rockoon flights to work on the use of small unmanned Dark Sky Stations as bases for vertical rocket launches starting from high up on the edge of space.

Both the Tandem and the prototype Dark Sky Station already flown use conventional helium balloons for lift, linked together by lightweight carbon-fibre trusses slung beneath. The Tandem features electrically driven propellors designed for the thin air found up at 100,000 feet and higher. One particularly neat trick is JP Aerospace's use of tied-down bags on the ground in which to inflate their balloons, meaning that there's no need to wait for windless conditions to make a launch.

Future manned ground-to-Dark-Sky ships and Dark Sky bases would use similar but more polished structures which would resemble huge cylinders of helium with lightweight keels running along them. Technically the ships would not be blimps – that's the term for airships without a rigid structure, which maintain their shape purely by internal pressure – but semi-rigids.

According to Powell, the two different types of ship and the intervening aerial base stations are vital as neither craft could survive the flight regime of the other. The vast, flimsy orbital vessels would be torn apart by the dense winds of the lower atmosphere, and the sturdier surface-launched jobs could never reach orbital velocity.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.