Ideas for O-D Luffships (spherical, lenticular, natural symmetrically shaped types and so forth) arose from experience with CargoLifter in Germany to first help design a huge classic style unidirectional (UD) airship (CL160) for aerial crane and transport purposes of 160 tonne payloads and then, when realising it wouldn’t succeed, a very big towed dumb barge spherical balloon system (the CL75 AirCrane) for 50 tonne payloads (when ground towed) or 75 tonne (when air towed) as a way to demonstrate load exchange and promote company success.
The first item (CL160) brought realisation that one was facing a nightmare exercise costing enormously to develop in almost every way imaginable at the massive size, the least of which was to find a viable solution to hold station in variable weather during load exchange – never tested fully at small scale, so not proved, and rather difficult for the type (the reason for its many thrust units).
For its purpose, the second item (CL75) also had excessive size (costing dearly), but did prove that the goal to transport heavy loads was possible – undertaken with a c55 tonne mine clearance Panzer. It also showed that there was an alternative way to configure things; where vertical axis symmetry helped peg costs somewhat and the O-D form didn’t need to turn into wind for load exchange or handling, a major hurdle for classic types.
Even so and of itself, the AirCrane’s design (built and operated as a prototype test article) had limited use (compromising viability) needing a free flying version to undertake duties anywhere without ground restrictions. Aerial towing methods were intended, but were beset with safety issues - so never agreed. One can say this now from hindsight, where one learns from doing how to make things work properly – if allowed and able to continue.
Although CargoLifter closed after spending the money invested (mainly on the CL160 and its hangar) without being able to get more (ending further development) it may be said that their goal for heavy lift operations with an LTA aircraft was worthy and remains to be fulfilled – so needs a way to follow. LTA Solutions thus was started to carry on in private with new Luffship arrangements that would help people understand how the goal may be achieved.
This included a progressive method to instead grow from small undertakings before embarking mammoth projects like the CL160; but that needed patience, tolerance and further market opportunities to be engaged – since, clearly, small types are unsuitable for heavy lift purposes, but they do cost (needing a way for payback).
Freed from management restrictions, new types for heavy lift purposes were devised and then scaled down through several steps to business entry level versions. These small versions then naturally would be representative of heavy lift types to use, learn and develop from; but that could change as things then progressed.
Click on the above links to explore the different O-D Luffships designed or on the following link to return to the general Luffships page for further types.
Note: Information about N, S and other aerostat forms has been removed to focus on L types.