By John H. Cummings III (USASMDC/ARSTRAT)November 22, 2010
Redstone Arsenal, Ala. - The HiSentinel80 unmanned high altitude airship completed a successful test Nov. 10 launching from Page, Ariz., and tracking northeast toward Utah and Colorado.
The airship payload, part of a U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command program, was recovered north of Monticello, Utah, on Nov. 11.
"This was the first flight of the HiSentinel80," said Rick Judy, HiSentinel80 program manager for the Army. "The purpose of the test flight was to conduct day/night cycle effects on a high altitude airship, as well as test various payload capabilities."
The flight time for this test was expected to be more than 24 hours, or to stay aloft as long as positive (remote) control could be maintained. The HiSentinel80 was aloft for eight hours at an altitude of 66,300 feet, and while the 24-hour objective was not achieved, valuable command and control and payload connectivity data was collected before flight termination because of range limitations.
Judy said that not all preflight objectives were met during the demonstration flight.
"Along with the prime contractor, Aerostar/Southwest Research Institute, we will review the data collected from the recovered vehicle payload. We will evaluate the objectives achieved and determine reasons for those not met," Judy said.
USASMDC/ARSTRAT manages high altitude airship efforts that include both lighter-than-air and heavier-than-air platforms. The objective of these efforts is to demonstrate engineering feasibility and potential military utility of both LTA and HAT high altitude systems for persistent payload operations.
The HiSentinel80 airship is designed to launch similar to a weather balloon, taking the familiar airship shape as the vehicle reaches its mission altitude. At mission completion, the payload is released from the hull and returns to the ground by parachute. The hull, or vehicle body, is made of low-cost disposable material designed not to be recovered after a mission. For the purpose of this flight demonstration, the airship hull has been found south of Grand Junction, Colo. and contact has been made with the property owner for recovery.
"Page, Ariz., was selected as a launch site because it provides optimal surface wind and wind aloft conditions for this flight demonstration and an ideal location for high altitude airship launch and recovery operations," Judy said.
Located in extreme north central Arizona and about five miles from the Utah state line, the city of Page is perched atop Manson Mesa at an elevation of 4,300 feet above sea level. With a population of approximately 7,000, Page is seated in the high desert landscape of northern Arizona.
The airship is part of the USASMDC/ARSTRAT HiSentinel80 program and was built by Aerostar/Southwest Research Institute. HiSentinel80 is 207 feet long and 45 feet in diameter and is expected to cruise at an altitude of 65,000 feet, well above commercial airspace.
The HiSentinel80 program objectives include testing environmental effects on a stratospheric airship as well as validating military utility of platforms at an altitude of 65,000 feet. After evaluating if test objectives were achieved, spiral development to achieve greater payload capacity, greater power capability and longer station duration will be attempted.