JP Aerospace, “America’s OTHER Space Program“, has been out flying their high altitude airships again, including an Ascender prototype:
Sunday June 14th our 26 foot Ascender airship took to the sky in Northern Nevada. This vehicle is smaller than some of our other vehicles, but it is extremely important. It is a test bed for an entire new internal structure and new internal helium cell interface. It was intended to be a short hop to 1000 feet above the ground. However everything was going so well we let her run and flew to 2585 feet above the ground (6,708 feet above sea level. We had the combination inner cell fill volumes and balance off by about six ounces and we floated tail up about twenty degrees most of the way. It slowed the climb rate a bit but didn’t detract from an excellent flight.
The Ascender is a pretty complex system with four helium inner cells, servo control vents, an out envelope pressurization system, a carbon truss internal structure, full unlink command and tracking system and independent backup gas release systems. The real value of this test flight was learning to deploy this complex of a system in the field. We still have goose bumps on how great the flight went. This is the vehicle that paves the way for the next generation of Ascenders to come.
*Away 117 Reaches 95,874 feet (29222 meters) –
Away 117 was our 180th flight. The flight carried magnetohydrodynamic experiments for the ATO project, a PongSat from Singapore and a slot machine for Soboba Casino.
The flight was a great success. We have a challenging recovery operation. It took four hours of off road driving and a twelve hour hike/climb up and down a mountain but we got it back.