Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu

If it can push a spacecraft, engineers are trying to harness it to fly through space

0 min read

CHEMICAL ROCKET Fuel and oxidizer ignite in a contained explosion + Proven technology, ample performance data. – Inefficient; spacecraft must carry lots of propellant.
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The Tech Is Finally Good Enough for an Airship Revival

LTA Research’s Pathfinder 1 aims to solve humanitarian-relief and supply-chain bottlenecks

3 min read
People are arranged around the rear end of a white, cylindrical airship above a white floor and inside of a large aircraft hanger.

LTA Research staff maneuver Pathfinder 1 while the airship is under construction at the company’s Moffett Field facility, near San Francisco.

LTA Research

At Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif., Lighter Than Air (LTA) Research is floating a new approach to a technology that saw its rise and fall a century ago: airships. Although airships have long since been supplanted by planes, LTA, which was founded in 2015 by CEO Alan Weston, believes that through a combination of new materials, better construction techniques, and technological advancements, airships are poised to—not reclaim the skies, certainly—but find a new niche.

Although airships never died off entirely—the Goodyear blimps, familiar to sports fans, are proof of that—the industry was already in decline by 1937, the year of the Hindenburg disaster. By the end of World War II, airships couldn’t compete with the speed airplanes offered, and they required larger crews. Today, what airships still linger serve primarily for advertising and sightseeing.

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