New Airship Headed for NASA Ames

E-Green Technologies Bullet 580 Airship (Credit: E-Green Technologies)

For anyone in Silicon Valley who has ever looked into the sky in wonder, annoyance or vague fear as the Zeppelin NT puttered noisily overhead, you’re in luck (or out of it): another airship  is coming to NASA Ames early next year.

NASA has entered into a lease with E-Green Technologies, Inc. (EGT) Kellyton, Ala., to bring the world’s largest airship to NASA Research Park at NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.

Under the terms of the three-year lease that begins Jan. 1, 2011, NASA will lease approximately 24,000 square feet of hangar space in historic Hangar 2 for EGT/21st Century Airships to develop and test its Bullet™ Class 580, the world’s largest operating airship. The massive 235-foot long/65-foot diameter lighter-than-air vehicle is designed to fly on algae-based bio-fuel at speeds up to 74 mph, at altitudes up to 20,000 feet. The Bullet™ Class 580 is scheduled to arrive in early 2011, after successfully completing its third and final inflation and other engineering tests.

The Zeppelin NT, operated by Airship Ventures, currently gives tours of the Bay Area at $500 per hour. It’s definitely cool to see it floating up there, especially over the Golden Gate and the Bay. But, when it gets low, you realize the noisiness of the engines. And it does bring vague memories of Max Zorin’s blimp (in which he escaped during  A View to a Kill while trying to blow up Silicon Valley) and the doomed Hindenburg, although a repeat of the latter is unlikely given the use of helium.

E-Green Technologies’ website describes the vehicle as such:

  • Specially manufactured in various lengths to meet sustained altitude and payload requirements.
  • Maneuverable—vertical takeoff/descent; capable of reversing directions.
  • Diesel-powered generators provide a power budget for payloads exceeding 4kw.
  • Payload bays designed for easy access and modification.
  • Dual-redundant flight control system for manned and unmanned operation.
  • Ground Control Systems and data links provide full control during unmanned operation.
  • Water Condensate Recovery System reduces need for helium replenishment.

NASA officials view the Bullet Class 580 airship as part of its contribution to green aviation:

“EGT’s airship is another partnership Ames has been developing in the area of green aviation research and development,” said Pete Worden, Ames director. “This partnership takes advantage of Ames’ unique infrastructure to develop green aircraft and other green technologies. The EGT partnership will bring new jobs and skills to NASA Research Park and stimulate collaboration among EGT and the more than 70 on-site industry, university and non-profit partners.”

NASA Research Park is a world-class, shared-use R&D and education campus for industry, academia, non-profits, and government. NASA Ames creates strategic partnerships both to commercialize NASA technologies and to infuse NASA with new technologies from the external community. The goal is to foster collaborative, innovative and mutually-beneficial projects that demonstrate the value of co-locating within NASA Research Park to support NASA’s aeronautic and space exploration goals.

Company officials say that this vehicle will take inflatable airships to a whole new level:

“EGT is primed to usher in a new age of lighter-than-air flight and we intend to break records and perceptions in the process,” said EGT’s Chief Executive Officer Mike Lawson.

“Although traditional blimps have been around for centuries, they have undergone surprisingly little evolution throughout their more than 150-year history, said John Youngbeck, EGT’s vice president of manufacturing. “Our airships, including the Bulletâ„¢ Class 580, are radically different in design, enabling them to move beyond the performance limitations of traditional blimps by combining advanced technology with simple construction — and the ability to fuel with algae based bio-fuel; protecting our environment. We have a great team and really look forward to joining NASA Research Park and creating more jobs in Silicon Valley as we help to expand and grow this emerging airship market.”

First flight of the Bullet™ Class 580 is being planned for early 2011 from Moffett Federal Airfield. It will carry a joint NASA Langley Research Center and Old Dominion University (ODU) payload, the Radar Oxygen Barometric Sensor (RAOBS) Project, a remote sensing instrument for measuring barometric pressure at sea level – an important meteorological measurement in the prediction and forecasting of tropical storms and hurricanes.

For more information about for the Bulletâ„¢ Class 580 and EGT, visit:

http://www.e-greentechnologies.com

For more information about NASA Research Park, visit:

http://www.researchpark.arc.nasa.gov