In a 2002 speech to a Colorado group, Pete Aldridge (Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) went on record as an advocate of High Altitude Airships.
After introducing the concept of Advanced Concept Technical Demonstration (ACTD, DoD's technique for skipping the R&D stage by demonstrating a prototype of a mature technology and immediately buying a fleet of them), the first ACTD that he chose to brag about is the one NORAD sponsored for High Altitude Airships.
The High Altitude Airship is a free maneuvering, high-altitude balloon that will provide many of the same functions as a satellite.
It is solar powered and will fly untethered at an altitude of about 70,000 feet with a 4000 pound payload of surveillance and communications gear. It will remain on station for up to a year.
To those representatives of Colorado’s commercial satellite companies, let me just say that there is no need to blanche at the thought of losing business to a fleet of hot-air interlopers. In fact, this program would probably result in a significant extension of your market.
The payloads planned for these airships will likely be very similar to the packages on satellites. But because multiple payloads will be needed for each airship, marketing opportunities could be greater.
In addition, technology refreshment will likewise be simpler than with satellites making for higher paced business cycles and improved spiral development benefits.
Airships will compliment, not replace satellites. Keep in mind that satellites are necessary for the High Altitude Airship to function.
Interoperability with satellites would be another opportunity for payload providers. That could spell business opportunities for the majority of the commercial satellite companies.
Finally, this system would have commercial applications. It could open markets for users who can afford the payload, but not the associated launch and orbit costs. By the way, This ACTD was initiated and sponsored by NORAD... a Colorado employer.
By now we are all familiar with unmanned air vehicles — UAVs. The most prolific version from the recent Afghan campaigns was Predator, and more recently, Global Hawk. Both started life as ACTDs.
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Link to above: http://www.dod.mil/ddre/aldridge.htm
Link to the man's bio: http://www.defenselink.mil/bios/aldridge.html
Later that year, the HAA ACTD was taken over by US Missile Defense Agency, formerly BMDO and SDIO, AKA "Star Wars." (See Jane's International Defense Review - 17 November 2002).
Since that time, USAF Space Command commander Gen Lance Lord and USAF Chief of Staff General Jumper have climbed aboard as stratellite advocates. (previously posted on this board) And we all know how many branches of the US military joined NASA in showing up at our industry forum earlier this year.
Finally, here's Defense Daily (6th headline fron the top) with the clearest explanation I've seen yet for the mechanics of stationskeeping. I'm glad they're talking our stratellite rather than generic HAA but I'd rather see the right company or at least mention that Sanswire is a subsiduiary of GTE.
Evenso, if/when DoD buys a fleet of HAAs, it's pretty clear who they'll be buying them from. What's not clear is how deep price per share goes into the realm of double digit dollars.
Just how I see it....