Lord I can not remember where I had placed my eyeglasses just a few minutes ago but somehow I can remember reading an article on an atom power airship forty two years ago!!!!!!!!!!!!
However, another US project had already received a great deal of publicity by the mid 1960’s, namely the nuclear-powered rigid airship design of Professor Francis Morse of Boston University. Prof. Morse had long been fascinated in rigid airship design and technology, and had some experience as an engineer with the Goodyear Aircraft Corporation. Indeed, Morse’s interest can be traced back to his student days, when he wrote his thesis “The Rigid Airship Andromeda “ back in the 1940’s.
The nuclear-powered rigid airship had been introduced to the American public in a series of articles featured in the magazine “Popular Mechanics” by Frank Tinsley, and the writings of Edwin J. Kirschner, author of “The Zeppelin in the Atomic Age”. Prof. Morse’s detailed design was first publicised at the 1963 World’s Fair. The airship was to be 980ft (298.7m) long and 172ft (52.4m) in diameter, with a volume of some 12,500,000cu ft (353,960cu m) of helium. It was designed to carry up to 400 passengers in absolute luxury at a top speed of 103mph (89.5kts). Morse planned to have 5 cargo holds, each of 80,000cu ft (2,265cu m) volume, space for an 18 passenger aeroplane ferry and finally, some 40,000sq ft (3,716sq m) of passenger accommodations spread out over 3 decks.
The structure of the Morse design was essentially conventional, and the airship strongly resembled the British R101 in its outward appearance. Indeed, Morse seemed to borrow various features from both R100 and R101. The use of only 16 main longitudinal girders, with “reefing girders” between them to stretch out the outer cover was very reminiscent of R101, whereas the employment of a bow-to-stern axial corridor was more characteristic of R100. The structural weight of the Morse Nuclear Rigid was worked out at a precise 76.2tns (168,000lbs) with gross lift at 95% inflation given as 344.7tns (760,000lbs). The useful lift was given as some 136tns (300,000lbs) with an actual available payload of 81.6tns (180,000lbs).
The nuclear power-plant was to drive 3 engines at the stern of the airship: a 4,000hp gas-turbine for the 60ft (18.2m) long dual rotation propellers, and two 1,000hp turbofans for the boundary layer control ducts installed aft. The reactor was to have been some 630ft (192m) back from the nose of the airship in an expansion of the axial corridor. The entire installation with shielding was to be enclosed in a pressurised steel sphere, 13ft (3.9m) in diameter, with a total weight of 50tns (110,231lbs). This would still have come in under the weight of conventional fuel needed for long flights in a comparable airship with internal combustion engines.
The Morse proposal did attract considerable interest for sometime, and it was extensively featured in the popular press of both Europe and the US. It gained a degree of public acceptance with the enthusiasm and vogue for all things “atomic” I the 1960’s, but no practical steps were ever taken to make the design a reality. Indeed, no company was set up to actually build the Morse design, despite it appearing to be technically feasible.
America wasn’t the only country proposing to re-evaluate the airship in the 1960’s, far from it. By the middle of the decade another nuclear proposal had appeared in the national press of the country that was, and always will be synonymous with the giant rigid airship and indeed the land of its birth; Germany. The proposal of Erich von Veress (actually an Austrian engineer based in Graz) was incredibly ambitious, combining nuclear propulsion
with other radical innovations. The ALV-1 (standing for Atom