Electra, in conjunction with MIT and Harvard, has over the last two years been developing a stratospheric airborne climate observatory system (SACOS) based on solar-powered HALE UAVs for a variety of stratospheric climate science missions such as in situ measurements of atmospheric chemistry, radar surveys of ice sheets, and storm monitoring. Electra is in the process of building a demonstrator solar UAV designed for an ice sheet radar survey mission. This vehicle was designed using a novel approach to vehicle optimization pioneered by the SACOS team and is intended to demonstrate the operational feasibility and aerostructural design concepts needed to conduct useful science missions. In this proposal, we intend to leverage this program and the expertise developed in building this aircraft to design a vehicle that meets NASA stakeholder requirements. Phase I (described in detail in the remainder of this proposal) will consist of stakeholder engagement, trade space exploration, and vehicle conceptual design activities to determine the vehicle capabilities of most value and identify areas of substantial overlap with current SACOS stakeholders. Additionally, ground testing will be conducted of critical propulsion system components (batteries, solar panels, and motors) to validate the objective vehicle sizing and performance capabilities. Phase II will consist of stratospheric test flights of Electra’s current demonstrator aircraft with representative science payloads to prove out key flight control and system technologies at high altitude. Phase III will then consist of the development and delivery of the full capability objective vehicle to NASA.
Airborne Science Program