Y'herd thisun? 

“Some critics of manned space flight on Capital Hill are said to be using their influence to hold down the amount of research on this subject [of Human-affecting radiation in Space]; this could be an indirect way of slowing the pace of flights to the moon and Mars.”

from Space Commerce, Materials Processing by Secretary of the Air Force, Dr. John L. McLucas

Crazy right? Balloons to Space


Talk about going out on a limb... Lately I've been open about my current major disappointment with all things NASA, and now I'm openly admiting that I am behind the ideas from JP Aerospace.

Oy, I'll never be respected now.

And so what?

Years ago I happened across a late night showing of the Discovery Channel's "Space Balloons: 120000 Feet Above Earth" (sorry, no good links for it... apparently its not for sale anywhere).  I needed something, anything for background noise during a coding session and remember chuckling when it popped up in my search and only I clicked it because there was nothing else with "Space" coming up.

I ended up getting little work done and sitting on the edge of my seat.

I had no idea that "balloons" could haul such huge payloads.  Yeah, I knew that in the early days of space research balloons were used a lot but I thought all that was over.


Poking around I found that it was a general boomtime for all types of inflatables.  Giant triangles, silent and fast, had been commissioned by the Air Force (no, not UFO stuff, actual real stuff), Lockheed and Boeing were just kicking in with some advanced projects for using huge lifting body shaped rigids for getting significant cargoes in and out of difficult areas.


I hit Amazon and, along with a few historicals on the amazing and oddly forgotten grand ladies of the 1930s sky, found that a book had just then come out about using balloons as a real way to get to space.  I paid the ticket and, again, was amazed.

Ok, now and then you see google news about some company or another or some school group getting pictures of the Earth from "space" using simple balloons. Track a few of those links and you'll discover a company called JP Aerospace. This company leads this technology pack.  But they don't launch just for one-off goofs, instead they do it as a way to take the steps to develop an alternative, safer real world way to orbit.

Yeah, I know, crazy right?

JP Aerospace call themselves "America's Other Space Program" and, they do mean it.  They have been the leaders in commercial high altitude inflatable flights for years.  They fund their big picture goals by selling pictures and videos of your company logo (or your name and whatever message) flying above the visible curvature of our planet.  Also, they use the money from these commercial flights to pay for the dropping of "PongSats", small science experiments designed by students.  And, if you've got a lot less money than NASA's of the ZeroG company rates but really need 20 seconds in microgravity, they'll drop your larger experiment cargoes.  (I recall Zubrin and Carberry saying at the 2009 NSS convention that the Mars Society was planning to use a JP drop for a test).

JP Aerospace is not flying people, yet.  There are laws and tests to get past before that day comes.  BUT, and this is a big but, JP Aerospace is serious about their crazy work.  And apparently they have backers who could get around some of the red tape when the time comes.  See up above where I mentioned the "giant triangles"?  JP made them for the Air Force.  Seriously, giant inflatables that fly silent and fast and can turn on a dime and potentially carry a huge load of stuff.  Don't believe it?  Hit this page of real pictures.

Now, if you have an hour or two and if you hate being told that you have blinders on and have become an old fart wth rockets, rockete, rockets being your only idea of what can lift stuff way up high... to space even... then I urge you to check out this crazy idea:

Floating to Space. The Airship to Orbit Program

Yes, read the reviews... and remember to take them the same way that you take all space-geek forum posts: geeks out there love to damn quickly before reading any details.  You don't want to be another one of those jerks, do you? 

Read the book, let your mind wander for a few days afterwards, contemplating the advantages of a non-rocket slow ride needing no instantly-obsolete space elevator technology.  THEN do your review.  I dare ya ;-)

I just gave JP Aerospace a donation (and got a shirt to provoke evil stares at conferences).  I really hope that they continue the dedicated efforts because they have the pedigree and I think that they have a plan that is just crazy enough to actually pay off.

And it sure would be nice to have a space related thing pay off for a change, wouldn't it? 

home     who is smith    contact smith     rss feed π
Since 1997 a place for my stuff, and it if helps you too then all the better