Technician Marshall MacCready installs solar cells on the Helios Prototype

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  • Abstract:  Technician Marshall MacCready carefully lays a panel of solar cells into place on a wing section of the Helios Prototype flying wing at AeroVironment's Design Development Center in Simi Valley, California. The bi-facial cells, manufactured by SunPower, Inc., of Sunnyvale, California, are among 64,000 solar cells which have been installed on the solar-powered aircraft to provide electricity to its 14 motors and operating systems. Developed by AeroVironment under NASA's Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology (ERAST) project, the Helios Prototype is the forerunner of a planned fleet of slow-flying, long duration, high-altitude aircraft which can perform atmospheric science missions and serve as telecommunications relay platforms in the stratosphere. Target goals set by NASA for the giant 246-foot span flying wing include reaching and sustaining subsonic horizontal flight at 100,000 feet altitude in 2001, and sustained continuous flight for at least four days and nights above 50,000 feet altitude 2003 with the aid of a regenerative fuel cell-based energy storage system now being developed.

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