Can Giant Airships Accelerate To Orbit (JP Aerospace’s Idea)?

JP Aerospace is an interesting company – in the city of Rancho Cordova, CA., California, JP Aerospace, America’s OTHER Space Program. Their aim is to develop ways to send airships up into the stratosphere – and more controversially, all the way to orbit with their “Orbital Airships” vision. The airships would accelerate very slowly, at a rate of perhaps a few centimeters per second increase n speed every second, over several days, until they reach orbital velocity. Can they, or can’t they, or how far can they go?

If you do it the other way, build airships to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere from orbit, then this is much more widely accepted to be possible, with many scientists exploring plans such as the VAMP proposal for atmospheric re-entry for Venus, Titan and Earth by an airship that inflates as it re-enters, and slows down because it presents such a large surface area to the atmosphere. Also there was a 1964 test of a small inflated paraglider that achieved hypersonic speeds of over Mach 3 at a height of 400,000 feet, though only for minutes. So hypersonic flight by airships seems to be feasible in principle at those heights, but how fast and for how long? It is also definitely possible to have an inflatable in orbit, from the Echo project, which used inflated balloons as satellites for communications purposes.

Here is John Powell outlining his idea

Throughout this article, page numbers refer to John Powell’s book “Floating to Space, the Airship to Orbit Program”.


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