• Perlan






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.


Learn the Science




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.

See the Perlan 2



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.




Sponsored By


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.





After 4 extremely successful check flights of Perlan 2 in Minden it was time to pack and ship the container to Patagonia. This is a huge endeavor on the part of several team members over a week time frame. To safely fly from a remote area you must bring spares of any critical items. There's no overnight shipping or big box stores where we are going.

Jun, 12 2019   0 Comments  

Airbus Perlan Mission II is ready for 2019! On May 28-29, 2019 after extensive software and equipment upgrades, Perlan 2 took to the skies over Minden. Jim Payne, Tim Gardner, and Morgan Sandercock were the pilots and Dana Pierson was the new tow pilot behind a SoaringNV Pawnee. (Silvio is on vacation.) After the first flight Chief Pilot Jim Payne said "Perlan's upgrades work! Great to be flying again." Co-pilot Tim Gardner agreed, " All the hard work has paid off. Unconditional success!" And Jackie Payne, Chief of Logistics concurred, "Morgan Sandercock has seriously upgraded telemetry and added IMU data to the mix. Fabulous accomplishment!"

May, 30 2019   0 Comments  

Perlan Project had several desired upgrades for the 2019 season. In January 2019 Perlan 2 was trailered from Minden to Rosamond passing Mount Whitney along the way. (Above the trailer tires in the photo.) I joked that going to Greg Scates composite shop in Rosamond was like getting a full day at the spa, except this is for 2 months. It is much easier to work inside the inverted cockpit standing up, rather than leaned over and head down if the glider wheel is on the ground. So the Perlan 2 fuselage got inverted to hang on the custom made heavy A-frame. The frame needs to be moved with a forklift and positioned by 4 guys, one on each leg of the A-frame. Since the tail is so tall, the fuselage is fairly high off the ground. For a short video of rolling inverted see:  https://www.facebook.com/PerlanProject/videos/1154159661418619/?permPage=1

Feb, 05 2019   0 Comments