Study Programs

Airships: A New Horizon for Science

Team Leads
Sarah Holmes Miller
Jason Rhodes
Lynne Hillenbrand
Robert Fesen

Opening Workshop April 30-May 3, 2013
Closing Workshop September 25-27, 2013
Summit on Tethers November 18, 2013
Final Report February 26, 2014
Papers, Presentations and Media

NASA Airship RFI released

NASA is considering a stratospheric airship challenge to incentivize the demonstration of a long duration scientific platform for both Earth and space sciences. In 2013, a Keck Institute study (Airships: A New Horizon for Science) demonstrated significant interest in airships as a science platform from the academic community and possible industrial partners.

In recent years, aerospace has seen a revival in airship technology. As of yet, scientists have not capitalized on what could be an ideal platform for various types of instruments with a wide variety of key science goals. We propose to gather experts in science and industry, including earth and atmospheric scientists, optical and infra-red observers in both planetary science and astrophysics, terahertz and millimeter observers, gravitational wave instrumentalists, as well as current airship technology experts, e.g., representatives from Near Space Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the Southwest Research Institute, in order to explore how science can best utilize the new airship platforms.

Specifically we aim to:

  1. Inform scientists of the capabilities of airship vehicles as instrumental platforms, as well as discuss how this technology could be expanded and improved to better accommodate science instrumentation requirements.
  2. Identify science observational/experimental projects that are uniquely addressed by airship vehicles, and determine which of these science goals could be simultaneously accommodated in one platform.
  3. Construct pilot (multi-)science project concepts for each viable airship platform, including how projects would be funded, managed/operated, and maintained as a coordinated effort between academia, agencies, and industry.

By opening up the sky and Earth's horizon in affordable ways with long-term flexibility, complementing the great space observatories and high-altitude balloon science, we can continue to push technology and science forward in a projectrich environment.

For questions contact: Jason Rhodes, Lynne Hillenbrand, Robert Fesen, Sarah Holmes Miller or Michele Judd.

Lynne Hillenbrand

Study Co-Lead Lynne Hillenbrand from Caltech.

Jason Rhodes

Study Co-Lead Jason Rhodes from JPL.

Robert Fesen

Study Co-Lead Robert Fesen from Dartmouth.