Aviation - Avions NASA-Prototypes
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The solar-powered Helios Prototype flying wing frames two modified F-15 research aircraft in a hangar at NASA's Dryden flight Research Center, Edwards, California. The elongated 247-foot span lightweight aircraft, resting on its ground maneuvering dolly, stretched almost the full length of the 300-foot long hangar while on display during a visit of NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe and other NASA officials on Jan. 31, 2002. The unique solar-electric flying wing reached an altitude of 96,863 feet during an almost 17-hour flight near Hawaii on Aug. 13, 2001, a world record for sustained horizontal flight by a non-rocket powered aircraft. Developed by AeroVironment, Inc., under NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project, the Helios Prototype is the forerunner of a planned fleet of slow-flying, long duration, high-altitude uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAV) which can serve as ''atmospheric satellites,'' performing Earth science missions or functioning as telecommunications relay platforms in the stratosphere.