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NASA Competition Could Net You $1.5 Million For Next Great Airship (networkworld.com) 41

coondoggie quotes a report from NetworkWorld: NASA this week said it was considering a new Centennial Challenge: Build an airship capable of long-duration flight for scientific missions. The agency issued a Request For information to see if there was enough industry interest in the challenge and to further develop rules for the competition.
The challenge would award prizes for successful demonstration of a stratospheric airship that would be required to accomplish the following: Reach a minimum altitude of 20 km, maintain the altitude for 20 hours (200 hours for Tier 2 competition), remain within a 20 km diameter station area (and navigate between two designated points for Tier 2), successfully return the 20 kg payload (200 kg for Tier 2 competition) and payload data, and show airship scalability for longer duration flights with larger payloads through a scalability review. The proposed structure for this competition is [centered around two main awards]. Award 1: A proposed $1.0 million will be split between teams successfully completing Tier 1 within 3 years of the challenge initiation. Award 2: A proposed $1.5 million will be awarded to the first successful demonstration of Tier 2 within four years of challenge initiation.
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NASA Competition Could Net You $1.5 Million For Next Great Airship

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  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @06:49PM (#51772869) Homepage

    'How many bottles of helium to you have?'

    'That many? Great, I'll be down in a sec.'

    Got my 3D printer, some mylar blankets and a roll of duct tape.

    I'm all set.

    • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

      surprisingly enough, I was thinking mylar. I have a box full of them, probably enough to build a 100,000cu.ft envelope.

      Now all I need is an adhesive that can withstand hard solar radiation as well as extremes of temperature.

  • You'd need more than 1½ million to make a sucessfull GP Airship these days.
    • Well you actually get to SELL your airship to NASA and others afterwards, for moar $$$. That's in addition to the $1.5 million prize money. So yeah maybe it could be worth it.

      • Well you actually get to SELL your airship to NASA and others afterwards, for moar $$$. That's in addition to the $1.5 million prize money. So yeah maybe it could be worth it.

        "What's that? Oh, it's a check for my share of the prize money? Thanks, I've really been looking forward to... uh. Where are all the zeroes? What do you mean, the prize was split between three hundred teams?

        "Crap, this thing cost me ten times that to build. Hey, listen, do you want to buy it? What? Why not? No room, you say? Well, maybe you could store it at one of your other facilities. Texas is huge, and you barely even use Alabama anymore.

        "No? Fine, screw you. I know plenty of parties other t

    • You'd need more than 1½ million to make a sucessfull GP Airship these days.

      For a full-sized airship, maybe. But this request is only for something to carry 10 kilograms; not all that much more than the high-altitude balloons that high school students keep sending up to "the edge of space".* If you're clever, I wouldn't be surprised if you could probably do it for a few tens of thousand dollars.

      --
      (And, boy, am I glad that slashdot got tired and stopped posting those "students send random object to the edge of space" stories.)

  • 20km vertical, 20km range for 20hr...
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's not random. 20km vertical is one of two minima in windspeed: at 20km the wind is not the factor it is at other heights, so station-keeping is much easier.

    • I wonder how much 28km of rope weighs, could we just anchor a balloon with rope and satisfy the requirements?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    1.5 million divided between the members of those who complete Tier 2
    1 Million divided between the members of ALL teams that complete Tier1

    NASA's funding shortage is showing...

  • Obligatory (Score:3, Funny)

    by pushing-robot ( 1037830 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @07:18PM (#51772979)

    If it works in KSP, does that count?

  • How about that nice airborne aircraft carrier in the Avengers? It was even able to stay aloft with 2 broken engines. You're welcome. I'll take a cashiers check please.

  • Project Loon (Score:4, Interesting)

    by pr0t0 ( 216378 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @08:02PM (#51773149)

    Google's Project Loon already meets or exceeds most of these specs. The payload they use is only 10kg, but industrious web watchers have calculated the vehicle is actually capable of handling payloads between 100-150kg, so it closes in on Tier 2. It may not have the airship form factor, but it's also likely to be sh'loads less expensive.

  • You could do it with a solar powered hot air balloon. Use light weight solar panels to absorb heat and also use the electricity generated to heat the air within the balloon. Obviously starting with helium provides a huge boost, so hot helium will rise further and faster than cool helium. This will also help with icing up. You can also use the energy to power high efficiency light weight motors for better directional control. The balloon material would have to be thicker than normal to provide greater insul

  • by Sarten-X ( 1102295 ) on Thursday March 24, 2016 @09:30PM (#51773523) Homepage

    Lockheed Martin once built an airship [blimpinfo.com] to go over 18km. Due to budget cuts and the required removal of equipment, a critical valve froze at about half that height, cutting the test flight short with an "unplanned controlled descent". The airship landed in a forest, and when the sun came out the next day, the solar panels started a fire.

    I'm sure they're watching this intently.

    • Lockheed Martin once built an airship [blimpinfo.com] to go over 18km. Due to budget cuts and the required removal of equipment, a critical valve froze at about half that height, cutting the test flight short with an "unplanned controlled descent". The airship landed in a forest, and when the sun came out the next day, the solar panels started a fire.

      Well, all except the part about "the solar panels started a fire." No, nothing caught fire. It just sort of crumpled and sat there in the trees.
      http://defense-update.com/20110729_hale-d-high-altitude-airship-crashed-in-ohio.html
      http://www.ohio.com/news/break-news/lockheed-martin-s-prototype-blimp-crashes-during-maiden-voyage-with-video-1.226880

  • scale all you wish, from Deca drone to 6D Omni-directional aerodynamic brushless inverted coanda rescue platform. Tm. https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]
  • Bad moderator. Bad moderator. Go to your room.
  • Boom. [wikia.com] I will take my prize money in large bills, thanks.

    Pros: worldwide flight range; can take you to the moon

    Cons: cannot fit through volcano portals that take you to the underground world of the dwarves
  • by ihtoit ( 3393327 ) on Friday March 25, 2016 @10:06AM (#51775687)

    Getting to the top of the troposphere (about 10km) requires the same amount of helium as barely lifting your balloon.

    The scale height of the atmosphere is about 7.5km, so getting up to 25km will require your balloon to expand by about a factor of e^3, or about 20x. So your balloon should be able to expand to 20x the volume that it has on liftoff. Also, the stratosphere is dynamically stable -- so you need a little extra helium to rise through it.

    The lifting power of helium is a little over 1.2 grams per litre at sea level (but that has to lift the balloon itself too). So if your camera has a mass of 1kg and you're not carrying anything else, your balloon has to be about 1,000 litres (a ~4 foot diameter sphere) on launch. But since you want to rise through the stratosphere you should add another 50%-100% -- making it 2,000 litres (a ~5 foot diameter sphere). The balloon needs to be able to expand by a factor of 20 as it rises -- so it needs to be able to stretch to a ~14 foot diameter sphere.

    Anyone know the going rate for tanked helium?

    A 9 cubic metre tank (76.5kg gross weight) goes for £165 at retail. You'd need three of those (27,000 litres) just to lift the payload. One on board for topping (you'd get away with a smaller tank for this, say a 12kg, 2.61cu.m one at £104). So your total lift on the ground would be payload + helium tank + envelope + control/propulsion. Probably looking at 35-40kg. Your balloon would need to be able to hold half a million litres of rarefied gas. This isn't a case of just chucking things at a balloon and hoping for the best, we're talking about advances in materials science and NASA on the lookout for up-and-coming aero engineers.

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