Drucella Andersen Headquarters, Washington, D.C. July 15, 1992 (Phone: 202/453-8613) Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-1547) Michael Mewhinney Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-3937) RELEASE: 92-110 WORK BEGINS ON HIGH-ALTITUDE ATMOSPHERIC RESEARCH PLANE Construction has started on a high-flying, lightweight, unpiloted research aircraft called "Perseus" that NASA will use to measure ozone levels and other atmospheric conditions. NASA sees Perseus as the first step toward general use of advanced aircraft for many aspects of Earth sciences research such as climate and radiation studies, tropical dynamics, meteorology and for studies of the stratosphere and troposphere. "Aircraft measurements give a more detailed view than satellite measurements," said Phil Russell, Small High Altitude Science Aircraft project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Mountain View, Calif. "This view is often essential to understanding how global change processes work." Russell noted that Perseus is the first plane specifically designed for science and is "a major addition to the set of tools we have to understand the upper atmosphere better. With the ozone depletion issue, it is even more critical that we have a suitable platform to conduct cost-efficient science in these regions." The data will improve scientists' understanding of the stratosphere -- altitudes above 40,000 feet -- including

possible effects of exhaust from future high-speed transport aircraft. - more -2Aurora Flight Sciences Corp., Manassas, Va., won a $2.25 million contract to design, build and flight test two Perseus aircraft. Perseus is being developed with funds from NASA's High Speed Research Program and the Upper Atmosphere Research Program. Perseus will be delivered to NASA next year. Flight tests are slated to begin in late 1992 at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards, Calif. New Tool for Atmospheric Research Perseus has several advantages over other methods of taking high-altitude measurements. Research balloons, for example, are not as controllable as remotely piloted vehicles. Balloons also are difficult to launch, are affected by adverse weather conditions and sometimes burst, causing the loss of expensive instruments. NASA's high flying ER-2 aircraft, while they can carry up to 2,700 pounds of science instruments, have a 70,000-foot ceiling -- well below Perseus' maximum altitude. Perseus can fly higher than any other subsonic aircraft. It will carry up to 110 pounds of scientific instruments to altitudes of 82,000 feet. "Since Perseus is unpiloted, there is an additional advantage in using it under flight conditions that might jeopardize the safety of a piloted aircraft," said Jennifer Baer-Riedhart, Small High Altitude Science Aircraft Project Manager at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility. Baer-Riedhart said Perseus' first science mission, an ozone research flight for NASA's High Speed Research Program, is scheduled for 1994. The mission will improve understanding of how exhaust from high-speed aircraft might affect the stratosphere, including the ozone layer. Perseus Specifications Perseus will fly for up to 6 hours and cruise at its maximum height for 1 hour. The aircraft will have a top speed of 150 knots and a range of 1,000 miles.

Perseus will be made of lightweight composite materials, such as graphite and Kevlar, much like high-performance sailplanes or gliders. It will have a wing span of 58.7 feet and will weigh only 880 pounds. - more -3The plane will be powered by a liquid-cooled, closed cycle, rotary engine rated at 50 kilowatts that will burn a mixture of gasoline and oxygen, diluted by recirculated exhaust gas. Aurora Flight Sciences developed the engine under a $500,000 Small Business Innovative Research Program grant from Ames Research Center. A winch-driven cable will pull Perseus forward for take-off and the propeller will engage after the cable is released. Although a pilot on the ground can command the aircraft remotely, Perseus mostly will fly itself using an onboard computer with preprogrammed flight plans. The autopilot will compute the aircraft's location using signals from the Global Positioning System, a worldwide constellation of U.S. navigation satellites. Perseus also can respond to changes in wind direction and speed. -endNOTE TO EDITORS: A short 3/4-inch video clip on Perseus is available to media by calling 202/453-8594. A photo also is available to illustrate the release by calling 202/453-8375: Color: 92-HC-450 B&W: 92-H-500