NASA’s Helios Comes Down in the Pacific

By Keith Cowing
June 26, 2003
Filed under
NASA’s Helios Comes Down in the Pacific

NASA’s unmanned Helios aircraft came down in the Pacific Ocean off Kaua’i, Hawaii during its second flight from Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) today. No firm cause is yet known although a power failure is suspected.

This was 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.

According to NASA “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.”

The vehicle had problems during its first flight several weeks ago. According to NASA at that time Helios had been “brought back to land 15 hours after takeoff — about three hours earlier than planned — after recording some anomalies with the aircraft’s revolutionary fuel cell system. This was to have been Helios’ first flight using fuel cell technology after taking off under solar cell power, but the fuel cell was not brought on line.”

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.