Airbus joins Virgin Galactic and Space X in the next-gen space race.
Airbus is at it again. For a company that files patents constantly for tech and specs that travel geeks and sci-fi fans can only dream of, you would think it would have run out of ideas by now. But this time, Airbus is aiming even higher (literally): The Airbus Perlan 2 glider, set to launch in June, will be the first engineless aircraft to fly at the edge of space.
The glider is on its way to become the highest-flying aircraft in history, with the team hoping to reach altitudes of up to 90,000 feet using nothing but wind, which would put 98 percent of the Earth’s atmosphere beneath the Perlan 2. (For reference, a commercial plane typically cruises at 35,000 feet.) To get to that altitude, the Perlan 2 will be towed to several thousand feet, then cut loose to coast on Argentinian mountain waves, or air currents above mountain ranges that can push a flight into the stratosphere. Once there, the pilot and co-pilot will have to wear an oxygen re-breather system, similar to the one used by astronauts. With an 84-foot wingspan, the Perlan 2 will also carry scientific instruments, life support, and two safety parachutes. It has the same weight as a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.
The Perlan 2 is just the entry point for Airbus, which has its sights set on space. The company recently filed a patent for hypersonic passenger craft that will go to space and back, according to the Daily Mail,. This puts Airbus alongside SpaceX and Virgin Galactic in the latest iteration of the space race.
In the meantime, Airbus will have plenty to keep its engineers and designers busy. It recently filed a patent for a Concorde 2.0 to get travelers from New York to London in an hour. Earlier last year, the company also released plans to stack passengers in a highly efficient, but slightly terrifying pattern. And with its newest widebody plane, the A350, making its first flight in December followed by an upcoming revival of the longest flight in the world (19 hours, nonstop, if you were curious), Airbus is in full control of some of this year’s most innovative travel. And it’s only February.
Airbus Perlan II is the first engineless aircraft designed to fly at the edge of space using air currents
It has been designed to glide on ‘stratospheric mountain waves’ that can take the craft up to 90,000ft (27,430 metres)
During its first flight, the glider successfully reached altitudes of 5,000ft (1,525 metres) without an engine
Expected to make its first attempt to reach 90,000 feet in June in Argentina