General Aviation News reports that the craft’s four pilots, Miguel Iturmendi Jim Payne, Tim Gardner, and Morgan Sandercock, helped it reach a record high altitude of 32,500 feet this Wednesday during its second season of flight testing.
The Airbus Perlan Mission II is a specially designed engineless glider for use in studying the planet. This initiative is attempting to fly the craft to the edge of the atmosphere, allowing it to collect data on weather conditions, climate change, and high-altitude flight without risk of contaminating the data with its own emissions.
The next two months will hopefully see the all-volunteer team break the world gliding altitude record set in 2006 by Einar Enevoldsen and Steve Fossett in the Perlan 1 aircraft, hoping to surpass 50,727 feet. The unique Patagonia region of Argentina makes it one of the only places in the world these sorts of tests could take place. The mountain winds and polar vortex of the area create the conditions needed to potentially lift the craft to the edge of space sans engine as they attempt to do.
Unlike a simple weather balloon, the Perlan II has many factors that help it more effectively undertake its mission. The ability to steer it, hover in a single location, and take off and land in one spot are all pluses in efficiency that other aircrafts just can’t match.
In addition to its research on weather changes, it is also meant to record the affects high-altitude turbulence, radiation, and other factors have on pilots in these conditions, hoping to improve air and space travel in the future. The team behind these tests hope that their findings can even be used for potential travel to Mars.
To learn more about the mission and Perlan II, you can watch live flights all throughout the summer on the Airbus Perlan Mission II Virtual Cockpit stream.