Airbus Perlan Mission II, an initiative to fly a
glider without an engine to the edge of space to collect
insights on climate change, weather and
high-altitude flight, reached a new high altitude in its
second season of flight testing last week in El Calafate, Argentina.
Jim Payne, Morgan Sandercock, Tim Gardner and Miguel Iturmendi
took the pressurized Perlan 2 glider in a series of flights
reaching a maximum altitude to date of 32,500 feet.
Calafate, in the Patagonian region of Argentina, is in one of a
few places on earth where a combination of mountain winds and the polar vortex create the world’s highest “stratospheric mountain
waves” – rising air currents that Perlan pilots believe can
eventually carry their experimental aircraft to the edge of space.
Over the next two months, the all-volunteer exploration team
sponsored by Airbus will seek for the rare waves in an attempt to
break the world gliding altitude record of 50,727 feet, set by Einar Enevoldsen and Steve Fossett in Perlan 1 in 2006.
way, the aircraft will continue to collect scientific data on the
atmosphere made possible by the Perlan 2 aircraft’s unique
“Just last month the world witnessed another
reminder of the importance of understanding climate change, with
the fracture from the Antarctic ice shelf of an iceberg the size
of the state of Delaware,” said Perlan Project CEO Ed Warnock.
“Airbus Perlan Mission II will allow us to study a range of
atmospheric phenomenon that ultimately will give us more accurate
models of our upper atmosphere and the climatic changes that
matter to every world citizen.”
The engineless design of
the Perlan 2 sail plane enables it to collect uncontaminated air
samples from a range of altitudes. Unlike a weather balloon, it
can be steered, can stay in one area, and can take off and land in
the same location.
Besides studying factors influencing
climate change, Airbus Perlan Mission II will also provide
insights into high altitude turbulence and radiation effects on
pilots and aircraft.
“As demand for air travel rises, and
we are faced with questions about how to safely and more
efficiently transport a growing population, the insights that
Airbus Perlan Mission II will be collecting are invaluable,” said
Allan McArtor, Chairman of Airbus Americas. “Perlan’s discoveries
will help us shape the future of aerospace with innovations
related to design and engineering, more efficient air travel and
even aviation science related to travel on Mars.”
You can tune in
to live flights of the Perlan 2 this summer from the
Mission II Virtual Cockpit.