The atmosphere as a ladder to space.
Balloons have carried people and machines to the edge of space for over seventy years. JP Aerospace is developing the technology to fly a balloonor more accurately, their relative, the airshipdirectly to orbit.
Flying an airship directly from the ground to orbit is not practical. An airship large enough to reach orbit would not survive the winds near the surface of the Earth. Conversely, an airship that could fly from the ground to upper atmosphere would not be light enough to reach space. The resulting configuration is a three-part architecture for using lighter-than-air vehicles to reach space.
The first part is an atmospheric airship. It will travel from the surface of the Earth to 140,000 feet. The vehicle is operated by a crew of three and can be configured for cargo or passengers. This airship is a hybrid vehicle using a combination of buoyancy and aerodynamic lift to fly. It is driven by propellers designed to operate in near vacuum.
The second part of the architecture is a suborbital space station. This is a permanent, crewed facility parked at 140,000 feet. These facilities, called Dark Sky Stations (DSS), act as the way stations to space. The DSS is the destination of the atmospheric airship and the departure port for the orbital airship. Initially, the DSS will be the construction facility for the large orbital vehicle.
The third part of the architecture is an airship/dynamic vehicle that flies directly to orbit. In order to utilize the few molecules of gas at extreme altitudes, this craft is big. The initial test vehicle is 6,000 feet (over a mile) long. The airship uses buoyancy to climb to 200,000 feet. From there it uses electric propulsion to slowly accelerate. As it accelerate it dynamically climbs. Over several days it reaches orbital velocity.
Low cost bulk access to space
True reusability, multiple orbital flights before servicing.
Large structures can be placed already assembled in orbit.
Brings safety and reliability to reaching space.
Both the climb to orbit and reentry are slow controlled processes. No high reentry heating, no big fuel tanks to explode.
Opens up the solar system.
Once in orbit, the airship is a spacecraft. With its solar/electric propulsion, it can now proceed to any destination in the solar system.
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