Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
Scroll to top

Top

2 Comments

America’s Other Space Program

  • On January 15, 2006
  • http://www.ruairiglynn.co.uk

Website

I’ve been looking at using dirigibles for an interactive installation I’m thinking about building but more about that hopefully in the future. I found this while I was looking for some meteorological balloons. JP Aerospace is a volunteer-based organization developing cheap access to space using lighter than air systems and although it doesn’t have the same sort of funding as the Scaled Composites space programme, it does have an interesting approach to cheap sustainable space tourism. Its been in development for over two decades with eighty ‘real hardware test flights’ and expectations are for it to be completed in seven years.

‘Balloons have carried people and machines to the edge of space for over seventy years. JP Aerospace is developing the technology to fly a balloonor more accurately, their relative, the airshipdirectly to orbit. Flying an airship directly from the ground to orbit is not practical. An airship large enough to reach orbit would not survive the winds near the surface of the Earth. Conversely, an airship that could fly from the ground to upper atmosphere would not be light enough to reach space. The resulting configuration is a three-part architecture for using lighter-than-air vehicles to reach space.’

This 3 part system begins with an ‘atmospheric’ airship which will travel from the surface of the Earth to 140,000 feet and meet with a suborbital space station, a permanent, crewed facility called the DSS (Dark Sky Station). It will be here that they build the orbital airship initially and then use the DSS as the departure port.

‘The third part of the architecture is an airship/dynamic vehicle that flies directly to orbit. In order to utilize the few molecules of gas at extreme altitudes, this craft is big. The initial test vehicle is 6,000 feet (over a mile) long. The airship uses buoyancy to climb to 200,000 feet. From there it uses electric propulsion to slowly accelerate. As it accelerates it dynamically climbs. Over several days it reaches orbital velocity.’

‘The high altitude airship has been built and is awaiting test flights. Several Dark Sky Station platforms have been built and flown. Every piece of equipment for this system has been carried to 100,000 feet and tested in the environment. The first crewed DSS is scheduled to fly in eighteen months. The ion engine 120,000 foot flight test for the orbital airship will be flown in the next five months.’

Comments

  1. bartolere

    Incredible idea.
    But most incredible is how this has been unknown for so long.
    Thanks for digging this to the surface for all to know!

  2. Doug Morrow

    Let’s step back to first principals…

    You say that “Flying an airship directly from the ground to orbit is not practical. An airship large enough to reach orbit would not survive the winds near the surface of the Earth. Conversely, an airship that could fly from the ground to upper atmosphere would not be light enough to reach space.”

    Today, yes, this is certainly true. But much work is being done on developing exotic materials, and it seems to me that it may be possible to create a fabric that dramatically stiffens when electrified. Using something like this, it may be possible to inflate a more or less rigid structure on the ground, pump a portion of the internal air out, getting lift bouyancy, pumping more out as the structure rises, until the whole interior is a near vacuum. Once near space, deflate the “gas bag” portion of the airship, and rocket the last little way into space.

    In this way, it might be possible to get from here to there in one vehicle.

Submit a Comment