Milestone for Airlander’s Return-to-Flight scheme

Posted on 27 Jan 2016 by Victoria Fitzgerald

This week the mission module and payload bay were attached to the Airlander 10.

Already this month there have been a number of major attachments under the hull in preparation for the forthcoming maiden flight of Airlander, beginning with the fuel tank at the rear of the aircraft, followed by the payload beam.

The Airlander 10 is set to take to the British skies for the first time in the spring.

Mike Durham, Hybrid Air Vehicles’ technical director, commented: “It’s very satisfying for the team and me to get another milestone under our belts. We’re hugely excited about the forthcoming Airlander First Flight this year.”

The components were attached using pioneering British technology, with the mass of the aircraft supported from strengthened features built into the hull during manufacture. Multiple attachment points on each part of the structure allow the load to be distributed evenly.

Unlike traditional airships, the Airlander has no internal structure but it becomes rigid through being filled with helium at just above atmospheric pressure.

The super-strong hull material has been especially designed by Warwick Mills and assembled by ILC Dover, the company who make NASA spacesuits.

The Airlander Mission Module in situ
The Airlander Mission Module in situ.

Its composition includes a woven fabric for strength on the inside, and a Tedlar layer for protection on the outside, sandwiching a mylar film to retain the helium.

Materials used throughout the manufacture of the Airlander 10, range from bespoke hull fabric to the mainly carbon composite mission module; fuel module; ducts, and engine support battens.

An Airlander produces 60% of its lift aerostatically and 40% aerodynamically, as well as having the ability to rotate its engines to provide an additional 25% of thrust up or down; this means the Airlander can hover as well as land on almost any surface, including ice, desert and even water.