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An Inside Look into Perlan 2 Glider Testing

Popular Science article emphasizes the risks and rewards of the upcoming Perlan 2 flight.

San Diego, Calif., March 1, 2016 – A recent article in Popular Science magazine outlined the Perlan 2’s mission, the scientific advancements that may emerge from the upcoming historic flight, and the risks the engineless glider will face at an altitude of 90,000 feet. Quoting project manager Morgan Sandercock, the article states that the region of the Earth’s atmosphere in which the glider will fly “has the most intense turbulence outside what you’d get in a hurricane or a cyclone.”

The challenges of operating at high altitude go beyond turbulence and the ever-present risk of depressurization.  As with any aircraft, flutter is always a concern, but operating at high altitudes causes unusual combinations of high Mach numbers at surprisingly low air equivalent air speeds, which can exacerbate the issue. The testing performed by ATA provides a detailed and intricate understanding of the structure that is essential to accurately predicting where the flutter boundary lies.

For a quick, one-minute review of the assembly-testing-disassembly process in the ATA lab, view the time-lapse video below.