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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, August 11, 2001

New Helios solar craft flight delayed

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua‘i Bureau

MANA, Kaua'i — The Helios solar aircraft, which was scheduled to attempt a new world altitude record today, was rescheduled for launch tomorrow morning.

Helios is a giant flying wing with propeller engines powered by photovoltaic panels on the surface of the wing.

The vehicle is a prototype of a kind of unmanned aircraft designed to remain aloft indefinitely. It is designed for use as a platform for communication relays, atmospheric sampling, and imaging and sensing of the planet's surface.

In an effort to test Helios' capabilities, NASA and Helios builder AeroVironment hope to exceed the 80,000-foot record for propeller flight, and an even higher altitude reached by the once-secret SR-71 Blackbird jet.

"Engineers believe that the aircraft could reach 92,000 to 95,000 feet or higher on this mission, well above the current record of 85,068 feet for sustained horizontal flight set by an SR-71 in 1966," said a NASA press release.