NASA Sets Second Helios Fuel Cell Checkput Flight for Thursday


The second in a series of checkout flights leading up to a planned long-endurance flight demonstration by the solar-electric Helios Prototype flying wing is planned to lift off Thursday morning, June 26, at the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i.

The flight could mark the first time that a large aircraft is powered by electricity derived from an advanced experimental fuel cell system.

Takeoff is nominally scheduled for about 8:30 a.m. on the full-day shakedown flight, which could last up to 20 hours before Helios returns to the Navy facility on the west shore of Kaua'i. The final schedule and "go - no go" decision will be made at an all-hands crew brief late Tuesday afternoon. Should weather or technical issues force a postponement, Friday and Saturday June 27-28 are backup flight days.

John Del Frate, Helios project manager at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, said the primary objective of the second check flight is to verify the in-flight operation of the fuel cell system, including stable operation of the system and its compressor at 50,000 feet altitude and at a rated power of 18.5 kW. A rapid shutdown of the fuel cell system and a restart at night on battery power is also planned.

During the first check flight June 7, the Helios Prototype was aloft for about 15 hours at altitudes up to 52,000 feet while engineers checked out modifications and upgrades made to the aircraft over the past two years. The fuel cell system was not brought on-line due to some leakage in the coolant system and compressed air lines that feed the fuel cell while the Helios is aloft.

The overall goal of the flight series is to demonstrate the ability of the Helios Prototype to fly a long-endurance mission of about 40 hours, including at least 14 hours above 50,000 feet altitude. The Helios flies on electrical power derived from solar arrays during the day and from the experimental fuel cell system that combines oxygen from the atmosphere with hydrogen stored on the aircraft at night.

A new photo from the Helios Prototype checkout flight on June 7 is now posted on the NASA Dryden web site photo gallery at:

http:// www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/Helios/HTML/ED03-0152-32.html

Video footage is also available for television news and documentary broadcast. For photo prints or video dubs, please call (661) 276-2665.

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