Fly to the moon in a balloon!
- The following extract is from:
It looks like a novel, simple, and viable project to explore the
solar system. The main web site is at:
Where there are details of progress so far.
The atmosphere as a ladder to space.
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.
The first part is an atmospheric airship. It will travel from the
surface of the Earth to 140,000 feet. The vehicle is operated by
a crew of three and can be configured for cargo or passengers.
This airship is a hybrid vehicle using a combination of buoyancy
and aerodynamic lift to fly. It is driven by propellers designed
to operate in near vacuum.
The second part of the architecture is a suborbital space
station. This is a permanent, crewed facility parked at 140,000
feet. These facilities, called Dark Sky Stations (DSS), act as
the way stations to space. The DSS is the destination of the
atmospheric airship and the departure port for the orbital
airship. Initially, the DSS will be the construction facility for
the large orbital vehicle.
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. Both the climb to orbit and reentry are slow controlled
processes. No high reentry heating, no big fuel tanks to explode.
Once in orbit, the airship is a spacecraft. With its
solar/electric propulsion, it can now proceed to any destination
in the solar system.
It is happening now.
This is not fanciful speculation. The project is now over two
decades in development with over eighty real hardware test
flights and countless development tests. It is being built
completely with existing technology.
It's being built now.
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.
It's being paid for now.
This new way to space has not and will not require a massive pile
of capital to accomplish. Each component has its own business
application and funding source. It is a pay-as-you-go system. For
example, funding the atmospheric airship was provided by the
Department of Defense for use as a reconnaissance vehicle. The
DSS has multiple customers in the telecommunications community.
We are seven years from completion.
<full article with images at