Last week’s crash landing of Lockheed Martin’s prototype airship caused a small amount of combustible fluid to leak into a small, shallow rural Pennsylvania stream, a state environmental report shows.
The leaking fluid, called Dynalene MV, did not end up in drinking sources or cause any injuries, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection reported.
The airship, the High Altitude Long Endurance Demonstrator, was carrying about 16 gallons of Dynalene MV that was used as “trim fluid” and pumped through tubes and containers to help the airship maintain equilibrium, according to an incident report Lockheed Martin submitted to the state.
The unmanned, solar-powered ship known by the acronym HALE-D was deliberately crashed in remote, heavily wooded state gamelands in southwestern Pennsylvania after its maiden voyage on July 27 was cut short by an as-yet undisclosed malfunction. The remains of the 232-foot-long, 75-foot-wide airship, including its silver envelope, burned in what is being called an accidental fire Friday afternoon after other parts of the HALE-D had been salvaged.
The fire likely was electrical in origin, environmental department spokeswoman Lisa N. Kasianowitz said Tuesday.
The HALE-D was powered by solar panels on its upper envelope that charged lithium ion polymer batteries, which in turn supplied electricity to the airship’s motors.
Lockheed Martin personnel mopped up about a quart of the Dynalene MV using absorbent spill blankets after seeing a sheen on a narrow, 1- to 3-inch deep tributary that feeds Roberts Run in Greene County. The fluid also leaked into soil, according to the state report.
About a gallon of the Dynalene MV was recovered from the craft while the rest apparently burned up in Friday’s fire.
The Pennsylvania environmental department sent employees to the site on Saturday, Kasianowitz said.
The state has asked for additional water quality testing and also intends to test ash from the burn site to determine if any enforcement actions are needed, Kasianowitz said.
It’s likely the burning of the envelope resulted in hydrocarbons being released into the environment, she said.
The crash site has been reseeded and mulched to get it back to its original condition, the spokeswoman said.
According to Dynalene MV’s manufacturer, Pennsylvania-based Dynalene Inc., the liquid is clear, colorless and combustible “with a strong aromatic hydrocarbon odor.”
Dynalene MV will ignite and burn at elevated temperatures and can be ignited by static discharge, according to a fact sheet at the company website.
Vapors and mists from Dynalene MV can be irritating, with the company saying emergency responders needed to wear protective equipment and have adequate fire protection when dealing with the liquid.
The HALE-D was built as part of a U.S. Army program intended to demonstrate new airship technologies developed by Lockheed Martin. The HALE-D, the first part of the High Altitude Airship program based in Akron, was intended to reach and stay in place at an altitude of 60,000 feet. The airship program is billed as a cheaper alternative to communications and surveillance satellites.
The airship was at a height of 32,000 feet, or about six miles, when something prohibited it from climbing higher. Lockheed Martin decided to bring the airship down in the sparsely populated area of Pennsylvania by activating the craft’s “Rapid Descent Device,” according to the Pennsylvania DEP report.
The Army will determine what happens next with the program, Lockheed Martin officials have said.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com