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February 2006 edition

Airship technology looks set to reach new heights

By Daniel Cook

The HAA is possible because vital technologies have "matured to a point that they are ready for system integration," Lockheed’s Katharine Dunlap said, citing high strength fabrics needed to minimise hull weight, thin-film solar panels for the ship's regenerative power supply, and lightweight engines.

The company's airdock in Akron, Ohio, provides uninterrupted floor space the size of seven football fields and may serve as a final assembly station for the HAA. The airship will be 17 times the size of the Goodyear blimp and two will be able to fit end-to-end in the airdock.

The company is well-placed to tackle the certification hurdles the HAA will have to pass if it is to be manufactured.

“It's no secret that the HAA will be tethered to US government policy. One of the corporation's "56k" aerostat (the name refers to its 56,000 cubic feet volume) is currently stationed over Baghdad to "provide surveillance to high value assets," Dunlap divulged.

420K aerostats are at work along the US-Mexico border for the US Air Force - presumably at work defending “homeland security”.

Lockheed received its first production contract for a lighter-than-air vehicle in 1928. Since then it has built more than 300 airships and several thousand aerostats – the name given to an unmanned ground-tethered airship, such as the HAA.

Arnold Naylor is one of the UK’s leading experts on airships. As well as working for Britain’s Royal Aer....

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Lockheed Martin Corporation
Ohio Airships Inc. Airframer
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