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.
Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldson soared the Perlan I research glider to a new record altitude for gliders of 50,722 feet in the mountain waves at El Calafate, Argentina on 08.30.06. The Perlan I is now on permanent display at the Seattle Museum of Flight.
The Airbus Perlan Mission 2 will design and construct a pressurized glider to soar to the edge of space at 90,000 feet. This phase of our research will set a new world altitude record for wing-borne flight exceeding the records claimed by the U-2 and the SR-71.
This phase will set a goal of exploring the stratosphere up to 100,000 feet. Flight speeds will increase to the point where the glider will need new transonic wings. Flight operations will be extended to exploring the Polar Vortex in the northern hemisphere.
Surfing in the Sky
Glider pilots have surfed on mountain waves since 1932. The process is like surfing on a wave in the ocean, except the glider is in the wave rather than on the surface of the wave. Einar Enevoldson, a NASA Test Pilot, saw evidence that in regions closer to the Poles, in winter, the waves could extend above the troposphere and well into the stratosphere. Previously, no one had searched for waves in the stratosphere in sub-polar regions in winter. From 1992 until 1998 he gathered more evidence that these waves existed, and might be strong enough to lift a sailplane to remarkable altitudes. In 1998 Dr. Elizabeth Austin joined Einar in the search for an understanding of stratospheric mountain waves. She found that the Polar Vortex, and one of its principal components, the stratospheric polar night jet, existing only in winter, provided the high speed wind in the stratosphere that powered incredibly high waves. The Perlan Project was formed to explore these waves and soar them to the edge of space.
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 what it is at sea level. It will carry a crew of two and scientific instruments needed to explore stratospheric mountain waves. The aircraft has a gross weight of 1,800 pounds and a wing span of 84 feet. 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 will breathe pure oxygen provided by a rebreather system.
The team members of an organization are its heart and soul. The Perlan project has been fortunate to attract a world-class group of scientists, engineers, pilots and administrators. These people are among the best of the best. Most are volunteers who give generously of their time, talents and finances. The longest serving members of this team have been working together to reach 90,000 feet in a glider for over seventeen years.
In 2014 Airbus Group joined the project as a partner and major funder. Airbus Group is a European industrial flagship which unites the capabilities of three market leaders: Airbus, Airbus Defense and Space, and Airbus Helicopters. Combining European heritage with global outreach, the diversity Airbus talent and technology drives innovation, integration and fostering a global community. The Airbus team has been providing technical consultations as well as financial backing to support the Perlan’s goal to explore the edges of space in a glider.
Diary of Exploring the Edge of Space: Members of the Perlan Project will document our journey of exploration at the edge of space. Dozens of people are each focused on critical aspects of engineering, science and inspiration. The topics range from A to Z, atmospheric science to zero pressure loss cockpit design. Following the blog lets you come along with the Perlan team on our journey of exploration and adventure. Welcome to the adventure.
On November 26 the Royal Aeronautical Society awarded a bronze medal to the Perlan team. The awards and medals are recognized as “The most prestigious and long-standing awards in global aerospace honoring achievement, innovation and excellence.”
Perlan Project has had so many opportunities to share our story in presentations around the world. 3 in Germany, London, Alaska, California, Nevada. Plus there are already dates scheduled in 2019 at NASA Armstrong, in Maryland, and the Founder's Innovation at Oshkosh to name a few more. The story of an all-volunteer team of enthusiastic experts from various fields of aviation, engineering, computers, marketing, logistics and management really resonates with our Perlan fans.
When you claim a world altitude record, you must be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you truly achieved your claimed altitude. Part of the rules require a pre- AND a post-flight calibration of your instruments. The Soaring Society of America contributed two LX-9000s to the Perlan Project to anchor the front and rear instrument panels. Stanford University's Space Rendezvous Lab has the ability to calibrate those High Altitude Flight Recorders (HAFRs). Dr Simone D'Amico has been very supportive of Perlan Project with three years of calibration. His team is receiving the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) Group Diploma of Honour at National Aeronautic Association (NAA) in Washington, DC later this month due to that generous support.