Airbus group has announced its decision to delay a stratospheric flight by its Perlan 2 glider – aimed at gathering vital information on climate change and the state of the ozone layer - until next summer. The flight was first scheduled last summer above the Andes Mountains. However due to exceptionally calm weather conditions the stratospheric flight was not possible. The Perlan 2 mission had been counting on powerful ascending air currents, or ‘mountain waves’, to whisk it up to an altitude of 90,000 ft (27,000m).
The glider nevertheless completed eight flights from El Calafate in the Argentine Patagonia, including one at an altitude of 22,000ft (6,700m). These tests allowed it to check a point essential to the smooth running of the scientific project – pressurisation of the Perlan 2’s cabin.
The stratospheric glider has now returned to its American base at Minden in Nevada. It will resume its test flights next March in the US, then setting off for Argentina in July 2017 to try its chances again. But the window allowing it to climb into the stratosphere is very narrow. On average, the requisite powerful ascending air currents only occur five days in every year.
On the bright side, just one flight would be enough for it to collect sufficient information to study global warming and the state of the ozone layer.