Sky high

Published: Sunday 31 May 1998

More than 200 airships will be launched into the stratosphere by the year 2000, the Japanese government announced. Floating 20 km above the Earth's surface, these 260-m-long zeppelins will be used like normal communications satellites, specially for mobile phones. Costing one-tenth the price of a conventional communications satellite, these airships will live longer, claims the government. Moreover, their relatively low altitude -- the orbits of the lowest satellites are at least 30 times as high -- means that the ground transmitters can be smaller.

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