There's an aircraft currently being shipped to Argentina that will carry a variety of experiments from Earth scientists around the globe as well as from school and university classrooms—this aircraft will fly in the upper atmosphere and will provide valuable data on high altitude flight.
This is the Airbus Perlan 2 stratospheric glider's journey which will arrive in El Calafate, Argentina, by mid-August. The journey marks a transition from a successful six-month flight test program in Minden, Nevada, to mission flights in Argentina’s Patagonia region, where wind conditions will allow the team to begin high-altitude aerospace and climate research.
The Perlan 2 glider is a pressurized sailplane designed to ride updrafts called “mountain waves” that, in certain regions near the north and south poles, can reach into the stratosphere. For a brief period in August and September every year, the weather in the Andes mountains near El Calafate is often perfect to generate these elusive stratospheric mountain waves.
The glider is designed to ride these waves up to 90,000 feet without requiring the two-person crew to wear pressure suits. Although this summer’s research program will likely focus on lower altitudes, project pilots may still break the world gliding altitude record of 50,671 feet, set in 2006 by Steve Fossett and Perlan Project founder Einar Enevoldson in the unpressurized Perlan 1 glider. The Perlan 2 glider is uniquely able to collect data on upper-level weather patterns and the condition of the atmosphere as there is no engine to contaminate air samples.