The Perlan 2 Soars To the Edge of Space Without a MotorSeptember 6, 2018 9:29 pm
The Perlan 2 shattered previous altitude records for a glider plane this week.
The Perlan 2 project has been an ongoing project sponsored by AirBus. The team has been breaking altitude records recently for unpowered aircraft flights. After hitting new record highs almost daily, this week they bested 76,000 ft. again setting an all time altitude record. Next, the Perlan 2 team has it’s sites set on clearing 90,000 feet which could surpass the current altitude records held by powered aircraft such as the U2 spy plane and the SR-71.
Here’s a great video introducing the project.
How do you fly a glider to the stratosphere?
First, the fixed wing aircraft is hoisted up to about 42,000 feet by a tow aircraft. From there the pilots, Jim Payne and Miguel Iturmendi, seek out rising air like a typical glider or hang glider pilot would. For these missions the waves of air are created by the massive mountain ranges in Argentina. The existence stratospheric mountain waves was theorized as far back as 1992 by Perlan’s founder and NASA test pilot Einar Enevoldson. After Perlan 1 proved the existence of stratospheric mountain waves, the pilots realized the waves, being propelled by the polar vortex, could actually reach heights of 130,000 feet. They’re going to need a bigger plane!
In Perlan 1 the pressurized suits were blowing up like balloons and prevented pilots from being able to steer. That didn’t stop them from hitting 50,722 feet and breaking the first of many altitude records. The Perlan II was created to solve the pressurization problems. This time they made the entire 2 person cockpit pressurized.
In the next video, published on Aug 29, 2018, The high-altitude Perlan 2 sailplane soared above 60,000 feet for the first time in history. This video footage, from the rotating tail camera, shows the skies over Patagonia on this early record-breaking flight.
At 70,000 feet the air is thin, at only 2% of the density that we feel on the ground. The Perlan 2 craft was designed with different laws of physics in mind than a conventional aircraft. Visit the Phelan 2 website for more detailed specifications and graphics explaining the plane and atmospheric weather phenomena.
For you techy geeks here’s a GPS trace of the route. The pilot makes multiple passes over several lift bands making it looks more like a hang glider pilot’s track than a spacecraft’s. Now it’s just a matter of time before a hang glider or paraglider pilot attempts to fly these epic air waves.