Helios launch delayed until Saturday, at earliest

Unfavorable weather conditions 50,000 feet above the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility have delayed takeoff of the modified Helios Prototype.

The NASA unmanned, solar-power, remotely piloted craft was originally scheduled to lift off Thursday, but high winds at high altitudes, moderate turbulence and low clouds led to abortion of that plan.

The earliest clear day isn’t forecast until tomorrow, Saturday, June 7, but weather conditions might dictate a flight Sunday, Monday or Tuesday, according to a NASA spokesman.

If the flight doesn’t happen until weekdays of next week, it might have to take a back seat to other PMRF operations, the spokesman added.

This year’s Helios looks different than the one that made the historic flight to nearly 100,000 feet back in the summer of 2001. A much-larger center pod houses a hydrogen fuel-cell system which will test the craft’s ability to stay aloft after dark, without benefit of the sun’s power.

There are only 10 propellors on this year’s Helios, as opposed to 14 in 2001, and two hydrogen tanks mounted underneath the wing sections. The test flight, originally set for Thursday, if all goes well will see Helios airborne for 20 hours.

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