posted at 04:50
Author Name: The Economist
A Cheap Alternative To Satellites Is Starting To Take Off
A Zephyr 7.IT TAKES chutzpah to tweet "Rockets are tricky" shortly after one you have just launched has deliberately blown itself up. Airbus, a European aerospace company, thinks that developing satellite-like capabilities without satellites is the answer. Hence the firm's recent trial, at an undisclosed location of Zephyr 7, a high-altitude "Pseudo-satellite", or HAPS for short. The Zephyr team achieved all this by following the principle of "Adding lightness"-jettisoning anything that did not help make the aircraft fly higher and longer. Zephyr weighs so little and travels so slowly that its landing is little more than a scrape. Airbus plans to restrict the marketing of Zephyr's commercial successors to places within 40° north or south of the equator. The main uses for satellites are observation and communication. Zephyr flies at one-fortieth of that, so the optics its needs to take pictures are far less demanding.

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