Saturday Tandem soared to 95,085 feet. She flew perfect. We fired up the propellers and drove her around then softly touched down three hours later.
Ascender 26 Flies!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 didnít detract from an excellent flight.The Ascender is a pretty complex system with four helium inner cells, servo control vents, an outer 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.
I believe they are now past the half-way point in their airship to orbit programme. It may not seem like it because so much of what they are doing is technology development (eg MHD generators) but with Ascender 26 now flying things feel a bit more concrete now.
I'd say it a different way: if JP knows how to get this thing to orbit, he's not telling us Last time I heard anyone ask (The Space Show, last year) he was saying he had ideas how to do it, but figured they were probably wrong, but was going to try anyway. i.e., it's a science project, not an engineering project.