Company formed on 1 September 1996 to continue development of CargoLifter large multipurpose airship for transportation of heavy and outsize cargoes. Nominal start-up capital of DM15.5 million; by June 2001, some 27 million shares sold in Germany and internationally and raised capital €40.5 million (DM79.2 million). Huge, 360 x 210 x 107 m (1,181 x 689 x 351 ft), 5.5 million m³ (194.2 million cu ft) hangar at Brand, south of Berlin, began construction March 1999 and completed in November 2000; can house two CL 160s. Second hangar was planned at new site in North Carolina, USA, for completion in about 2005. Full-size CL 160 preceded by subscale 'Joey' as proof-of-concept prototype and CL 75 AirCrane transport ballon; Skyship 600B, known as 'Charly', acquired in July 2000 for crew training, certified by LBA August 2001 and re-registered D-LCLA.
Additional shares offered in November 2001 in attempt to increase capital to a potential €50.6 million, but insufficient investment received. US office closed as economy measure in second quarter 2002, and on 9 May company offered convertible bonds to general public in renewed effort to raise working capital. However, this also failed to meet expectations and, on 28 May, CargoLifter admitted inability to pay creditors or employees. Applications for insolvency filed, on 31 May and 7 June 2002 respectively, by CargoLifter Development GmbH (wholly owned subsidiary) and CargoLifter AG; Professor Dr Rolf-Dieter Mönning appointed administrator for both companies. Number of shareholders at latter date was 72,000. CargoLifter AG restructured under two-man management board in order to develop new programme concept which would focus first on sales and production of CL 75 AirCrane, while maintaining core competencies for eventual realisation of CL 160. However, plans suffered further setback on 11 July 2002 when envelope of sole CL 75 AirCrane was ruptured during a storm.
Letter of intent signed with Boeing Phantom Works on 2 May 2002, under which each to investigate business opportunities for CL 160 'beyond CargoLifter's current focus'; Boeing interest said to include military surveillance possibilities; was reaffirmed in 30 July 2002 announcement of contract signature between CargoLifter AG and Boeing Unmanned Systems for joint exploration of stratospheric airship concepts.
Insolvency proceedings began on 1 August 2002; on 9 August, application for public sector assistance was rejected by German Ministry of Economic Affairs. Workforce was 491 in early June 2002, of whom 284 involved in airship development at Brand, but most of these suspended by insolvency administrator, leaving a staff of only 30 by mid-August 2002.