October 20, 2006 Sanswire’s vision for mass deployment of its specialized Stratellite airship have moved a step closer when its Sanswire 2A technology demonstrator completed its first outdoor, low altitude, float test. The company’s concept of placing a communications platform into the stratosphere can fundamentally change how the world delivers wireless telecommunications, and the way we communicate. Advances in composite structures, photovoltaics, man-made fabrics, electric motors and energy storage technologies have propelled today’s stratellite far above the great, rigid airships of the early 20th century from which it is descendent, and have put the near-space altitude of 65,000 feet within reach. The solar-powered Stratellite is an advanced rigid composite lighter-than-air vehicle designed to operate either as an unmanned autonomous or remotely piloted system at stratospheric altitudes in geostationary locations. Due to their operating altitudes of 12-13 miles from earth, as opposed to satellites that operate from a distant 22,000 miles away, Stratellites can provide a superior and fully reclaimable method for operating advanced wireless communications and monitoring services. With payload capacities measured in tons, and the ability to return to its base station on command, the Stratellite provides a cost-effective delivery system for broadband voice, data and video services, reducing reliance on “near real time” capabilities of satellites and the slow download speeds of copper based terrestrial networks.
During the first float, the structural integrity and overall balance of the airship were tested in uncontrolled atmospheric conditions.
Sanswire expects to test the airship over a period of at least 90 days. The testing will be performed to evaluate the entire integrated airship system. The first test of the structural loads and lifting qualities has been completed and will soon be followed by further airframe tests to ensure airship readiness for a dynamic flight environment. Upon installation of the avionics suite and propulsion system, a series of low altitude tethered tests and then, a series of high altitude tests will take place. At each stage of testing, Sanswire’s engineers will evaluate the airship’s flight qualities to determine if the airship is working within its design parameters. Throughout the systems testing data will be analyzed to qualify the airship design, with redesign accomplished as needed.
The Company intends to announce the completion of each test stage, and following the completion of the low-altitude tethered flights, free-flight tests at the Air Force Test Range at Edwards Air Force Base will ensue. Sanswire is preparing to file provisional patents covering the intellectual property associated with the airship.
“The results of our first float test are encouraging,” stated Doug Murch, Lead Engineer for the project. “The combined rigid hull/envelope structure behaved according to design resulting in a successful test during its first float outside of our hangar. Our primary test objectives were focused on the newly designed empennage, or fin/rudder system, in order to gain additional insight into the airship’s structural and load bearing qualities in the open air. The resulting test data will be invaluable in order to prepare for our series of flight tests.”