Giant Blimp Goes High-Tech

Ah, the blimp. Such a strange way to travel. And whether you think of Goodyear, Fuji, Metlife or a sandwich shop, these airships have become a part of our culture that we seem to take for granted. But now it looks like the Defense Department wants to put the blimp to a worthy use (other than circling football games) and has decided to put hundreds of millions of dollars into a new fleet of military airships. Go, blimp, go! Seems the military has promised a $149 million contract to Lockheed to build a huge high-altitude airship that will check for ballistic missile launches. Using solar cells and advanced fuel cells for power, an aerodynamic design and a control system must be developed to help keep the airship steady amid the high winds at that altitude without consuming excessive power. Also, because it's filled with helium, they'd have to make sure the temperature wouldn't affect it, and want to find materials to withstand extreme ultraviolet radiation for longer times. It's going to be big, too — about 2.5 times the length of the Goodyear Blimp. Look for prototypes around 2010.

Big Bucks for Giant Blimp [Defensetech]