At last! Concept dirigible looks more sci-fi than steampunk

Paul Raven @ 11-10-2010

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve long been more than passing fond of heavy machinery and Victoriana, but I’m getting pretty bored of steampunk as an aesthetic – it’s just too damned ubiquitous right now, a fashionable marketing veneer. New wine in old bottles, you know.

And few things sing out “steampunk!” quite so loud as the humble dirigible, of course – but there’s nothing to say that airships have to be a retro trope. So I suggest we reclaim the dirigible for near-future science fiction: witness this concept drawing from Australian aeronautics outfit Skylifter, which drags the dirigible bobbing and floating into the 21st Century… complete with 150 tonnes of cargo hanging beneath it [via SlashDot].

Skylifter dirigible concept

Designed to carry entire buildings to remote locations, folks. Entire buildings. And in case you were wondering about the flying saucer shape, that’s practical:

Rather than use either a spherical or a cigar-shaped aerostat, as the gas-filled envelope of a lighter-than-air craft is known, Skylifter has developed a discus-shaped one. This means that like a traditional, round ballon—and unlike the elongated dirigible blimps that have hitherto been used as serious modes of commercial transport—the craft is “directionless”. In other words, it is oblivious of where the wind happens to be blowing from, which simplifies load-handling in places where the wind is fickle. At the same time, being flatter than a sphere, the aerostat acts less like a sail than a traditional balloon does, making it easier to steer. The flying-saucer shape also acts as a parachute, affording greater control during descent.

Clever stuff. However, don’t hold your breath for stately fleets of disc-shaped dirigibles delivering shipping-container tower-blocks or solar-panel arrays to an urban void near you any time soon… Skylifter have a scale version working, but it’s only three meters across and capable of lifting a single kilogram. 🙁


Jules Verne – the first cargo ship in space

Tomas Martin @ 06-03-2008

The ATV Jules Verne will be the first unmanned European spacecraftThis Saturday marks the launch of the biggest vessel in European space history – the Automated Transport Vehicle (ATV), Jules Verne. Named for the classic SF writer, the 21-ton spacecraft is the first unmanned ship launched by Europe to transport goods through space. Russia has some unmanned vehicles, the Progress spaceships. The US Space Shuttle and Russian Soyuz craft also visit the International Space Station but Jules Verne is the first new type of craft in 9 years.

“The ATV, as a logistics vehicle, carries almost three times the hardware, fuel, water and oxygen that a Russian Progress carries,” said NASA’s ISS program manager Mike Suffredini. “It is a major contribution to the program.”

The Jules Verne will travel for a week catching up with the International Space Station before docking. The astronauts will remove the fuel and equipment within and send the ATv back to Earth in six months time, filled with waste material. Jules Verne will burn up in the atmosphere although in the future reentry-proof canisters may be included.

[story and image via Space.com]