Thursday, October 2, 2008

A New Means of Getting to Space

Last month, I pointed out a article about the anniversary of the DC-X(Single-Stage-To-Orbit, Vertical Take-Off, Vertical Landing) demonstrator technology. After reading about it in, I was looking around on that website and there was a link to a new book entitled: Floating To Space. The Airship To Orbit Program by John M. Powell. Looking at their website and the photographs there, I decided to order the book and read it.

I was impressed. The book includes a DVD and I watched that first. It was film clips of their test flights and airship to orbit proposal. All of this comes from a company called JP AEROSPACE. And going by the time line in the appendix, this began all the way back in December of 1993 with suspended rocket test launch series (as in firing a rocket suspended from a line connected to a launch balloon).

Now the concept of using balloons to get to outer space has been around for a long time and Mr. Powell cites a 1913 book by B. Krasnogorskii called “On the Waves of the Ether.” There are other examples in science fiction of floating cities such as the Cloud City in the Original Star Trek TV series (Stratos) and in the Star Wars movie “The Empire Strikes Back” the cloud city of Bespin.

But wait, what does floating cities have to do with airships going up to space? Simple it seems. A cloud city will serve as the second stage of a three stage system using airship technology. The first stage is a large “V” shape airship known as “Stage One Airship” which would be about 800 feet long and 150 feet tall. This makes it larger than the U.S. Navy's Macon or the German Graf Zeppelin. And with modern materials, the lifting capacity is much better than in the 1920s and 1930s. This stage has the biggest challenge. It must be able to climb up to 140,000 feet altitude to dock with the second stage.

The Second Stage of this proposal is known as the Dark Sky Station. Its a space station that floats at that altitude. Aside from docking there, it is also a research facility, shipping port, and ship yard. And that gives us the final, Third Stage of this concept – The Orbital Airship that can only exists at 140,000 feet plus altitude. And this thing is BIG. Another “V” shape craft that is 6,000 feet long!

I'll let the reader get a hold of their own copy of the book to learn little details about how a airship will be able to go supersonic, the larger Orbital Airship and the Deep Sky Station will be built while floating in the sky. How the vehicles will actually survive reentry, etc. Also, John M. Powell describes how they will go about funding this project. Now that chapter is worth getting the book anyway.

I recommend this book just for the fact it shows someone thinking outside of the conventional box.

As an aside. Seeing the cover of the book made me think about the huge UFO that was spotted over Phoenix, Arizona, back in the 1990s. After reading the book, the huge “V” shape UFO that was reported with the Phoenix Lights flew at a much lower altitude than what the Third Stage Airship could handle. Read the book to find out why the 6,000 foot long airship that JP Aerospace is working on could not be what was witness in the Phoenix Lights.

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