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Sat, Nov 19, 2005

High-Flying Airship Reaches Near-Space Altitudes

Flies To 74,000 Feet On Demonstration Flight

Aero-News has learned a 146-foot-long airship developed by a team led by Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has successfully demonstrated powered flight of the HiSentinel stratospheric airship at an altitude of 74,000 feet.

The development team, consisting of Aerostar International, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and SwRI launched the airship on Nov. 8 from Roswell, NM for a five-hour technology demonstration flight. The airship carried a 60-pound equipment pod, according to SwRI, as well as propulsion system.

"There are a number of stratospheric airship programs being promoted around the world, but this is the first of these programs to successfully fly a real airship in near-space," said William Perry, assistant director of Space Systems in the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division.

SwRI designed the airship and provided the telemetry, flight control, power and propulsion systems. Aerostar International fabricated the hull and participated in the integration and test flight. AFRL developed the innovative launch system, provided facilities, and supported the launch and recovery. Each of the four organizations contributed funding, manpower, equipment and facilities for the collaborative effort, which was sponsored by the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command.

HiSentinel is the first airship developed under the Composite Hull High Altitude Powered Platform (CHHAPP) program. CHHAPP is a spiral development program for a family of long-endurance autonomous solar-electric, stratospheric airships capable of lifting up to 200-lb payloads to near-space altitudes in excess of 30 days.

Unlike most other stratospheric airship concepts, HiSentinel is launched with relatively little helium onboard -- not enough to inflate the gasbag -- but as the airship rises, the helium expands to fully inflate the hull.

FMI: www.swri.org

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