HELIOS STATUS UPDATE: PLANNING FOR NEXT HELIOS CHECK FLIGHT UNDER WAY
June 11, 2003
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The NASA – AeroVironment flight test team is reviewing data from the first of several planned checkout flights of the Helios Prototype solar-electric flying wing, now equipped with a revolutionary fuel cell system for night time flight.
During the first shakedown flight last weekend from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), the Helios Prototype was aloft for about 15 hours at altitudes up to 52,000 feet while engineers checked out modifications and upgrades made to the aircraft over the past two years.
John Del Frate, NASA's Helios project manager, said the fuel cell system could not produce electrical power due to leakage in the coolant system and feed air lines downstream of the system's air compressor while the Helios was flying at about 50,000 feet altitude. He noted that all other objectives for the first flight were met, including checking the integrity, performance and stability of Helios, training of new crew members prior to much longer missions, verifying all operational procedures and confirming integrity of the fuel cell system’s thermal protection system.
The Helios flight test team is currently analyzing the flight data and inspecting the aircraft to better understand the causes of the leaks in order to correct them. The next possible check flight could come as early as June 26, but could occur later depending on how long modifications take and test range scheduling constraints.
The overall goal of the flight series is to demonstrate the ability of the Helios Prototype to fly a long-endurance mission of about 40 hours, including at least 14 hours above 50,000 feet altitude. The Helios flies on electrical power derived from solar arrays during the day and from the experimental fuel cell system that combines oxygen from the atmosphere with hydrogen stored on the aircraft at night.
Note to Editors: Still photos are available to support this release. Four new photos in series ED03-0152 are available on the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center internet website at: /centers/dfrc/Gallery/Photo/Helios/index.html
Video footage will also be available shortly. For photo prints or video dubs, please call (661) 276-2665.
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