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In Palmdale at a facility hangar, a 120-foot-long dirigible that stands 21-foot-tall and calls to mind a cloud with three puffs lies hidden from the public view. It is yet another in a long line of sleek and secretive aircrafts that Skunk Works is working on. This dirigible is a prototype of a much larger hybrid airship that has been touted by Lockheed Martin Corp. as their latest method for delivering personnel and heavy cargo to remote locations that is not accessible to traditional aircrafts.
When fully constructed, the dirigible christened the LMH-1 will be over 300-foot-long weight 21 metric ton and will be 78 foot tall. The LMH-1 is designed to easily carry truck-sized loads and will be potentially used in oil and gas/mining based industries as well as humanitarian efforts. Although early indications have pegged up to more than a dozen interested parties, there are no confirmed customers as of yet.
The LMH-1 is expected to have its first flight by the end of 2017 with an eye towards commercial service by late 2018. A single LMH-1 airship will cost roughly $40 million dollars and will have the capacity to carry up to 47,000 pounds, up to 20 passengers all the while consuming less fuel than your conventional aircraft.
The airship will have 4 relatively small engines and derive over 80% of its lift from helium. And despite the heralded passenger comfort, business director for Lockheed Martin's Skunk Works, Craig Johnston, has emphasized that the main focus of the LMH-1 will be that of a cargo vehicle. The LMH-1 is the culmination of over 20 years’ worth of aeronautical transportation research.
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