back to article NASA floats million-dollar airship prize for 20-20-20 vision

NASA is toying with the idea of a million-dollar-plus prize to encourage people to develop high-altitude airships for atmospheric research. According to its request for expressions of interest, the aeronautical agency wants ideas from industry, individuals and educational institutions. The “20-20-20 Airship Challenge” …

  1. Brian Miller

    Quick, El Reg, go for it!

    Now is the time to leverage all of the wonderful expertise gained with the intrepid Plamonauts, and go for that prize!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: Quick, El Reg, go for it!

      You beat me too it.... Have an upvote.

      1. kmac499

        Re: Quick, El Reg, go for it!

        I can hear the sawing, drilling and hammering in Dave Akermans' shed from here.

  2. Mephistro Silver badge

    Possible typo

    Richard, shouldn't that be the NSA instead of the NASA?

    Sorry for not using the corrections button. ;-)

  3. Martin Budden

    Project Loon here to stay (on station)?

    The problem I always saw with Google's Project Loon was that the wireless bases just float away over the horizon...

    This idea involves keeping the airships on station. Combine the two and we might have a solution which will fly (pardon the pun).

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    20kg payload?

    That's a lot of weather balloons, given that the Lohan test stuff has only been a couple of kilos load.

    I wonder how accurate the height has to be? Tricky to balance a balloon 'just so' and it might need some active control in the Z direction. I suspect this is a job for a lifting-body balloon, perhaps. What about that thing they rolled out of Cardington earlier this year?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: 20kg payload?

      Probably the reason that airships are never going to be really succesful. They are just too large and cumbersome for most operations. (The problem in designing most flying craft is not just the flying bit. Its the "getting back to the ground in one piece" that requires a lot of thought)

    2. daveake

      Re: 20kg payload?

      20km isn't very high, and a single 1600g balloon will lift 20kg that far.

      Then you have to float, which means removing gas from the balloon.

      Then you have to propel yourself into the wind. Most of that 20kg is going to be for that one task!

      Sounds do-able.

      1. Martin Budden

        Re: 20kg payload?

        Then you have to propel yourself into the wind. Most of that 20kg is going to be for that one task!

        No it isn't. When they say 20kg payload they mean 20kg of useful cargo. The bits that do the lifting & navigation & propulsion etc are part of the vehicle, not part of the payload.

  5. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Interesting idea.

    Prizes have worked for NASA before including the Lunar Lander Challenge and the new Spacesuit glove.

    Station keeping with an airship should be better than a balloon, which is needed for long term static observations.

    But lift falls with air density and at 20Km that's about 1/8 that of Sea Level.

    I hope this produces results but it's not going to be easy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Have we conveniently forgotton that helium is a limited resource again?

    1. FartingHippo

      Only until we fire up the (Mr) fusion plants.

      Thanks, it's the one with 88mph written on the back.

    2. daveake

      Helium is merely hydrogen's expensive boring cousin.

    3. Martin Budden

      Whaddya mean limited? There's bucketloads of it in the Sun! (admittedly it might be a bit tricky to get your bucket there and back)

  7. Edlem
    Paris Hilton

    KARDASHIAN it is then.

    May I suggest a design based around two unfeasibly large balloons.

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