The Perlan 2, a composite-intensive, engineless glider from Airbus, has set another new altitude record. Back in May, the glider flew 30,615 ft. while flying over the Sierra Mountains. This month, the glider reached a maximum altitude of 32,500 ft. (9,900 m).
Airbus intends for the Perlan 2 to eventually break the world altitude record of 50,727 ft. (15,416 m) set in 2006 by Einar Enevoldsen and Steve Fossett in the Perlan 1. The goal is for Perlan 2 to be the first engineless fixed-wing aircraft to reach the edge of space at 62 mi (100 km).
The engineless design of the Perlan 2 enables it to collect uncontaminated air samples from a range of altitudes. The glider can be steered, stay in one area, and can take off and land in the same location. Besides studying factors influencing climate change, Airbus Perlan Mission II will also provide insights into high altitude turbulence and radiation effects on pilots and aircraft.
The glider is made mostly of composites. To make its fuselage, engineers used a vacuum infusion process to lay up materials in a carbon fiber mold. The mold was heated to a medium heat and held at a constant temperature for several hours. The final part was cured in an autoclave. The horizontal tailplane was built similarly, with the actual parts laid up in a mold with a lightweight prepreg carbon fiber cloth.
In addition to its composite construction, Airbus notes there have been a number of upgrades to the glider since its first flight in 2015, including additional heating for critical operational items, modifications to the control sticks, and flight simulator updates.
For more information, visit http://www.perlanproject.org/.