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NASA Dryden Past Projects: Perseus B Remotely Piloted Aircraft
August 20, 2009

Perseus B landing on runwayPerseus B landing on runway

Designed and built by Aurora Flight Sciences, Inc., Manassas, VA, the Perseus B had a two-fold purpose: It was intended to serve as a propulsion and performance testbed for advanced high-altitude remotely piloted aircraft for NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project. In addition, Perseus B was designed to be a platform aircraft for actual science missions, carrying atmospheric sampling, weather monitoring, imaging, and telecommunications relay equipment in a payload bay in the forward fuselage.

Perseus B was designed to operate in the 65,000-foot (20 kilometer) altitude region and have a duration goal of 24 hours. The Perseus B engine was triple-turbocharged to offset the thin atmosphere at its design cruising altitude. With turbocharging, the four-cylinder engine was flat rated at 80 hp. from sea level to 60,000 feet. First flown in October, 1994, the Perseus B was flown twice more in early 1996 before being modified with a longer, stronger wing which meets FAR Part 23 load requirements. A new series of developmental flight tests began in the spring of 1998 at Dryden and culminated in achieving an altitude of 60,000 feet in just four flights and demonstrated system performance. Objectives of the 1999 flight series included evaluations of the engine and heat exchanger performance at high altitude and sustaining flight at 60,000 feet. NASA Dryden provided range communications and safety, hangar and office space for the Perseus B project.


Vehicle Description

Owner Aurora Flight Sciences, Inc. Manassas, VA
Aurora Flight Sciences
25 ft.
Wingspan 71.5 ft.
Wing Area 194 sq. ft.
Wing Aspect
Gross Take-off
2200 lb
Payload 264 lb
65,000 ft.
8 to 24 hours, depending on payload and altitude
Structure Graphite epoxy, nomex honeycomb, and kevlar aero surfaces, tubular steel frame fuselage.
Engine Rotax 912 horizontally opposed four-cylinder piston engine modified to operate with a three-stage turbocharger capable of providing sea-level air pressure at 60,000 feet altitude.
100 Hp.
Propeller Two-blade constant-speed propeller designed for high altitude operation, 8.9 feet in diameter

Project Milestones

October 7, 1994 Maiden flight
1996 Flown twice before modifications.
April 30, 1998 Series of four development missions began.
June 27, 1998 Reached altitude of 60, 200 feet, a record for Aurora's UAVs.

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Page Last Updated: February 9th, 2014
Page Editor: Yvonne Gibbs