back to article Prototype orbital seaplane in Texan blimp-base blast

A group of retired NASA engineers looking to develop a spacegoing seaplane - or seagoing spaceplane - have suffered a setback, with a prototype craft reportedly exploding during tests at the weekend. The Advent space seaplane concept High and dry. Pic courtesy of the X-Prize Foundation. The Daily News of Galveston County …


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  1. Jon Double Nice

    Anti submarine blimps?

    Like the ones you see in war films that they used to float up so that aeroplanes would catch on them?

    This has to be the most outside the box DARPA concept ever - "I know. Lets try and catch submarines, by floating big balloons up in the air. Balloons tethered by cables so that if the submarine catches on the cable, it'll cause it to crash and burn. Its the one place that the submarines will never expect us to try to catch them: UP IN THE FRIKKIN SKY!"

    Or maybe I missed the point of this somehow...

  2. dervheid

    Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives!?

    Please, can someone in 'merka reassure me that you DO NOT have the aforementioned agency.

    If this agency DOES, however, exist, then That Explains Everything!

    "Earth orbit is indeed a lot closer than you might think."

    and a lot further away than you realise, Mr Akkerman.

    BTW, does anyone else see the resemblance of the 'spacecraft' in the picture to a very large phallus? And is that a zero-g orgy going on in there?

    Or is it just me?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Water comment

    While the water launch concept is unique and interesting, I see a couple of pros n' cons:

    --Weather would be even more of a factor---I can't imagine that this could launch/land in all but the gentlest of seas.

    --If a mishap occurs, any large fires would be pretty unlikely.

    --If a mishap occurs, that would be a hell of a lot of water pollution, spreading for tens, maybe hundreds of miles, and recovery of the wreckage for analysis would be pretty hard.

  4. Martin Lyne

    Jon Double Nice

    Like Nimrod ASW, dropping sonar buoys and torpedos I guess, bear in mind WWII subs would surface more than modern ones. Spottable from - you guessed it - the air.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Been there

    The Sports Car Club of America also holds autocross meets there. I also recall that a road race team was testing Corvettes there as well. A big, flat, paved bunch of nothing that's not particularly near anything at all.

    I think the idea of anti-submarine blimps was the appeal of their extended loitering time over their mission area. This was, of course, some sixty-plus frikken years ago, so it may sound a little peculiar to the contemporary urbanite.

  6. MikeG


    You're thinking of barrage ballons. Anti-submarine blimps were used in WWII for search and rescue missions, anti-sub patrols, and escorting convoys. Their big advantage was that they could stay aloft for 60 hours.

  7. Stephen Gray

    @ Jon Double Nice

    Use the power of the interweb to find this

  8. Anonymous Coward

    Earth orbit is indeed a lot closer than you might think

    At best, it's about 100 miles away (LEO). I'm in London but still think Birmingham's quite far away. But trust me, I think it's easier to get there than 100 miles UP.

    However - orbit is probably a less hostile environment... Mine's the one with the flame retardent. Cheers...

  9. Phil Tanner

    @Jon Double Nice

    Exactly my thoughts on the matter, until I recalled some vague memory of a technical difference between a blimp and a barrage balloon (thanks MikeG - I couldn't remember for the life of me what they were called!) and presumed they were talking about the old WWI trick of dropping hand-held bombs out the sides of aircraft at them there dastardly Jerries...

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Anti Submarine Blimps in Texas?

    OK I can see the concept of anti-submarine blimps, but Texas seems one hell of a long way from anywhere that enemy submarines were operating in any significant numbers.

    So there are two possibilities:

    Firstly, that the authorities decided to base them there to stop the enemy getting at them. The ultimate in keeping your powder dry, keep your weapons where the enemy will never see them.

    Or secondly, that it was all a big cover up for what the base was really there for. What's that madam? You saw a UFO flying over your house. No, no, it was an anti-submarine blimp. Now if you'll just look into this object...

    Mine's the one with the black helicopter in the pocket.

  11. amanfromMars Silver badge


    Has anyone thought to build a New Space Environment with Future InfraStructure, Based Here as a Working Simulator, on a Unused Patch of Earth .... or is it all spoken for? Apportioned?.

  12. Torben Mogensen

    RE: Water comment

    The pollution problem is not that bad, given that the fuel is liquid methane and oxygen. If it burns, you get carbon dioxide and water, which is pretty harmless. Oxygen and methane are not bad either, except that methane is a hothouse gas. But even in the quantities needed for a space plane, it would be insignificant. The fragments of the ship itself are probably worse, but they need not be bad. If the hull is made of carbon composites and aluminium, it will be relatively harmless to the environment.

    Overall, the idea is not bad, but as with any orbital launcher, there are lots of technical problems to be solved.

  13. Mike Moyle

    Water launch and landing

    Well, first off, I have to say that I really LIKE the idea and I hope that they can make it work.

    On the other hand, I see a couple of problems that may have escaped the builders:

    1 --The inevitable whingeing from the "Save the Cute Animals" types about all the boiled dolphins washing up on shore after a launch, and;

    2 -- Having your shuttle pilot suddenly scream "Where did that fucking SAILBOAT come from?!!?" while you're on final approach.

  14. Pete James


    "I'm in London but still think Birmingham's quite far away"

    Don't worry. Most people in Birmingham still think London is a place that exists in a pantomime.

    You often hear Midlanders mocking the deluded Brummies with a 'Ar can say thurr Rowtundur from eya'. Pity those from the Second City (what a laugh that is), they deserve it.

    As for this sea/space contraption, does anyone remember some sort of US series about a bloke who dreamed about flying to the moon? Sort of early evening enterntainment show, early Eighties I think.

    A Stop sign. Something you'll never see in Space.

  15. Serenity

    @ dervheid

    Sadly the ATF does in fact exist as a federal agency.

  16. Mike
    Black Helicopters


    Yes we do in fact have such an agency.

    All the fun in one place ;)

  17. Pyros


    When I read this line:

    "the refueling process will cause the vehicles to rotate into the vertical attitude, avoiding the typically used vehicle erection equipment"

    my first thought was, based on the piccy, was: Huh? It's *already* erect!

    Mine's the one in the gutter.

  18. Stevie


    I thought everyone knew that *submerged* submarines are easier to spot from the air than from the surface of the water.

    Bah. Today's youth. Schools going to the dogs. etc etc.

  19. Michael J Welker Jr


    Yes, as of last year (or the one before), BATF is now BATFE.

  20. Acme Fixer

    @ ASB

    "I thought everyone knew that *submerged* submarines are easier to spot from the air than from the surface of the water.

    Nowadays, I thought everyone knew that *submerged* submarines are easier to spot from space than from the surface of the water. The moving submarine causes a 'wake' in the surface, actually makes the water rise, and the sooper-sekrit spacecraft can bounce radar off the surface and see the change in water level.

    "Bah. Today's youth. Schools going to the dogs. etc etc"

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: Anti Submarine Blimps in Texas?

    The U-Boats specifically targeted tankers travelling from the Texan fields to join Atlantic convoys heading for the UK, although they did spend most of their time taking potshots at tankers off the Florida coast where they could be seen silhouetted against the lights of Miami. It was only much later in the war that Florida enacted a lights-out policy and deprived Floridans of the spectacle of going to the beach to watch ships explode.

    After World War II blimps continued to be used by the US Navy as anti-submarine and anti-aircraft radar pickets. They were so big the radar could be fitted inside the envelope. And when I say big - I mean REALLY big:

  22. Andus McCoatover
    Paris Hilton

    @no-one in particular...

    "Ar can say thurr Rowtundur from eya" - not n'more. Think ther bugger's 'ad it.

    And a slight chortle - when I lived in UK, as apprentice with BT, I worked with a wonderfully named machine for sticking telegraph poles up.

    It was called the "Pole Erection Unit". Snick, snick.....

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