The British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, announced today that the envelope of their prototype vehicle, the Airlander 10, has been re-inflated with helium at the company's leased facilities in Cardington, England.
The envelope has a total volume of 38,000 cubic meters, according to the company's press releases; however, traditional non-rigid airships tend to have a ballonet volume of @25-26%, so the volume of helium requred to inflate the Airlander 10 prototype will be significantly less than the envelope volume.
Having completed the inflation, the envelope has been floated down the length of the newly re-furbished Shed One to the south-west end, adjacent to the main exit, where the engines, fins and mission modules(gondola and flight-deck) will be re-integrated over the next 2 months. From early 2016, the company will carry out a series of ground-tests, both in the Shed and outside, prior to resuming Flight Testing.
The move of the inflated envelope from the north-east end of Shed One involved the temporary resurrection of US Navy ground-handling concepts, in the form of 4 fork-lift trucks, each weighted with 2-tons of concrete, which were impressed to act as Mules. With a stated width of 43m, the Airlander 10 exceeds the width of the original occupants of the Cardington Sheds, the rigid airships of the Imperial Airship Scheme.
The prototype Airlander 10 was adapted from the US Army LEMV Project which was designed to operate at high altitude; which would indicate that the ballonets have a greater capacity than traditional non-rigid airship designs. When the LEMV Project was cancelled, the US Military was prepared to sell the prototype back to the manufacturers so that flight testing could continue, funded by investors and industry. By permitting continued development at private expense, the US Government investment in the project would not be wasted.
The company was unwilling to release any details on the projected performance and capabilities of the prototype, preferring to highlight the planned capabilities of the production Airlander 10.