I think I may have just solved the Aurora question. Attend the following press release.
Alice Ann Toole
Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., Manassas, Va.
HIGH-FLYING PERSEUS RESEARCH AIRCRAFT READY FOR ROLLOUT
NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin will make the keynote speech when a high-flying, unpiloted NASA atmospheric research aircraft called Perseus is unveiled in Manassas, Va., on Dec. 18.
When Perseus starts to fly science missions in 1994, it will gather data to improve knowledge on the atmosphere at very high altitudes, including the possible effect of exhaust emissions from next-generation supersonic airliners.
"Perseus is going to be a valuable new tool for many areas of atmospheric research, especially understanding the processes that control stratospheric ozone levels, so NASA and industry can produce future supersonic transports that are both environmentally safe and economically competitive."
Perseus, designed and built for NASA by Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., Manassas, Va., is the first aircraft designed specifically for atmospheric science. It will carry up to 110 pounds (50 kilograms) of instruments to a maximum altitude of 82,000 feet (25 kilometers).
Much of Perseus' technology derives from sport aviation and the record-breaking Daedalus human-powered aircmodeled on the Daedalus design, which had excellent aerodynamic performance. The plane is made of lightweight composite materials, much like sailplanes or gliders.
Perseus' engine is based on the 4-cycle, 4-cylinder Rotax engine that powers ultralight aircraft around the world, but is highly modified to burn a mixture of gasoline and oxygen diluted by recirculated exhaust gas. Aurora developed the engine under a $500,000 NASA Small Business InnovationResearch grant.
Perseus also is breaking new ground in other technologies like the onboard computer which will guide many of its flights using preprogrammed flight plans. The autopilot will keep track of the plane's location via signals from the Global Positioning System constellation of navigation satellites.
NASA has ordered two Perseus aircraft from Aurora Flight Sciences. Successful research missions by the planes could lead to more general use of advanced unpiloted aircraft for Earth science studies.
"Perseus is not only going to do science to improve the environment, but also is building an important new industry for the future," said Aurora Flight Sciences President John Langford. "It is key to a new generation of in situ measurement platforms that will lead to discoveries in areas such as atmospheric science, global warming and the forecasting of severe storms."
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