Well, okay, near space, not actually in it. But still, having an airship that is actually a huge sensor for tracking ground and aerial targets is a pretty interesting gizmo. Especially since it could stay aloft for a year at a time.
Several companies have begun design work on a prototype airship that could hover at an altitude near space where it would be able to track ground and aerial targets for up to a year at a time. Whether the program, known as Integrated Sensor is Structure (ISIS), moves beyond the design stage any time soon, however, will depend on the final version of the 2007 defense budget.
The U.S. House of Representatives funded the full $16.3 million request for the effort in its version of the 2007 Defense Appropriations Act, which passed the House in June. The Senate Appropriations Committee, however, has recommended denying the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s entire $16.3 million budget request for the program in 2007. The bill is currently awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.
The House and Senate will address the issue when they meet to resolve differences between their bills later this year.
Jenny Manley, a spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, did not respond to a request for comment on the committee’s proposed cut to the ISIS program.
Jan Walker, a spokeswoman for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said that program officials declined to comment on the ISIS effort at this time.
The Air Force Research Laboratory of Rome, N.Y., has awarded several contracts to industry to begin work on various aspects of the ISIS program. The lab awarded a two-year, $10.3 million contract to Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors of Akron, Ohio, in June to begin work on the airship platform.
The lab awarded two contracts earlier this year to Northrop Grumman Corp. for the ISIS effort. Northrop Grumman Space Technology of Redondo Beach, Calif., will develop a transmit-and-receive module for the radar sensor that is expected to be lightweight and extremely power efficient under a $6.8 million contract awarded in April. Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems sector, which is based in Linthicum, Md., is developing an antenna that can handle radar as well as transmit data simultaneously under an $8 million contract. Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems of El Segundo, Calif., also is working on a design for the antenna under an $8 million contract.
This article is from August, so now I have to find out whether this puppy got cut from the budget or not.