AIRBUS PERLAN II SOARS TO AN INCREDIBLE 65,605 FEET
Soaring over the snow-capped Andes yesterday 28th August 2018, the engineless Airbus Perlan II flew to an incredible 65,605 feet pressure altitude (19.9km) using stratospheric mountain waves to beat the current record-breaking flight set in September 2017.
If ratified the flight would set a new record in the absolute altitude on a glider. It is the second time in just a few days that the aircraft has reached over 60,000 to beat their own existing world record.
To achieve this high altitude flight, the purpose-built, pressurised high-altitude glider also passed the Armstrong Line, the point in the atmosphere at which human blood boils unless protected. The crew, Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi, use a specially designed closed-loop rebreather system, in which the only oxygen used is what the crew metabolizes. The aircraft’s wings designed to be able to fly in less than 3% of normal air density and at temperatures of minus 70 degrees C, conditions approximating the surface of Mars.
This unique glider is the result of the work of the Perlan Project, a team of volunteers whose aim is for an engineless aircraft to fly to the edge of space at 90,000 feet, and explore how weather phenomena called ‘stratospheric mountain waves’ impact the ozone hole and change global climate models.
El Calafate in Argentina was the location for the successful flight. This remote area of Patagonia is ideally placed for such high altitude soaring because the stratospheric mountain waves are particularly strengthened by the polar vortex, a phenomenon which occurs only for a brief period each year.
The Airbus Perlan 2 is a pressurized sailplane designed to fly at the edge of space where the air density is less than 2% of that of sea level. It carries a crew of two and scientific instruments needed to explore the stratospheric mountain waves. The aircraft has a gross weight of 1,800 pounds (816kg) and a wing span of 84 feet (25.6m). Its true flight speed at 90,000 will be 350 knots (403 mph). The cabin will be pressurized to 8.5 psi (14,500 feet). The crew breathe pure oxygen provided by a rebreather system.
The Perlan 2 will fly to 90,000 feet at the edge of space to explore the science of giant mountain waves that help create the ozone hole and change global climate models. This will require the engineering of a spacecraft with glider wings that can fly in less than 3% of normal air density and at temperatures of minus 70 degrees C, conditions approximating the surface of Mars. These missions will provide education and inspiration for young people seeking careers of exploration and adventure in engineering and science. (Source and image: Airbus)