For the person who asked what our helium purification unit looks like -- here you go. It is self contained, built to live inside a standardized "small" shipping container, and runs off a generator. To get a sense of the scale, note the door in the center. It can be transported on a trailer as needed, but we tend to keep it in the hangar.
We're most of the way done transferring the helium from the first storage bag back to the ship. You can see the large hose running from the top of the storage bag, to a blower unit (blue box near side of ship) and then into the top of the enveloper. We add the helium at the top, which stays at the top of the ship, pushing air out of access ports at the bottom of the ship as it fills.
While we were able to preserve most of the helium during the inspection process, we will still need to top up. Fortunately for us, our helium supplier, AirGas was able to deliver the required large quantity via this Linde tanker truck.
Today we removed the service lights and vacuumed the inside of the hull, did a count of the the tools in our three tool boxes and inspected the hull one last time from the inside. We are done with the internal structural inspection and are now ready to refill the hull with the helium stored in the three 2300 cubic meter storage bags. Tomorrow the helium will be pumped from the storage bags into the envelope, next step is to purify the helium and remove the service support structure.
Here, the crew is unpacking the third and final helium storage bag, as Eureka tops off the second, the base of which is beginning to fill out in the left side of the photo.
When all Eureka's salvageable helium (~6,900 cubic meters) has been stowed away in our three helium storage bags, the main difference between blimps and Zeppelins becomes apparent - she's not deflated!
Eureka's internal frame supports her from the inside, while struts and the mast truck hold and support her from below. And, while it normally would balance the ship's weight, there's really no need for all this ballast in such a heavy airship. What's the point of all this work, though? Matt and his team need access to all parts of the the ship for the annual inspection, and that includes the inside of the pressure envelope!
It might look like a fire, but it's actually just a test of our high-capacity smoke machine, used to inspect the hull for leaks. We warned the fire department already, just in case anyone thinks we've lit the place on fire, but
We're having some fun this Friday at the Tied House Brewery in Mountain View after work.
The brewery has invited us to tap the "First Firkin".
Because too much is never enough, we've invited a Bavarian band to come and play too -- The Internationals.
When: Friday March 5th, 5pm
Tied House Brewery and Cafe www.TiedHouse.com
954 Villa Street, Mountain View
How much is a Firkin? Ever so helpful, Google informs us it is 40.9148269 liters. I think our merry band can handle that, but we hope to see you come out and help us anyway. There is always the Second Firkin!
As Matthew carries out the annual maintenance procedures, Eureka is drained of helium, and the ship is now supported from the nose by the mast truck, and at six of its frames by posts and beams.
You can see the gray helium drain hose coming from the top off the ship to the bags and blower.
As the helium is drained, it's pumped into three giant helium storage bags. Each bag holds 2,300 cubic meters of helium and, alone, each could fill a MetLife blimp with 8,600 cubic feet of surplus helium!
Eureka holds a total of 7,400 cubic meters of helium, so where does the other 500 cubic meters go? Because the bottom-most helium mixes with air as the envelope slowly drains out the top, the 'dregs' are not worth putting back in and must be vented.
The bags are held down by concrete blocks on castor wheels - each one is 400 lbs!