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Record Details

Record 7 of 21866
Pathfinder in flight over Hawaii
NIX Online Source: Click to View Photo/Image
Abstract: Pathfinder, NASA's solar-powered, remotely-piloted aircraft is shown while it was conducting a series of science flights to highlight the aircraft's science capabilities while collecting imagery of forest and coastal zone ecosystems on Kauai, Hawaii. The flights also tested two new scientific instruments, a high-spectral-resolution Digital Array Scanned Interferometer (DASI) and a high-spatial-resolution Airborne Real-Time Imaging System (ARTIS). The remote sensor payloads were designed by NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, to support NASA's Mission to Planet Earth science programs. Pathfinder was a lightweight, solar-powered, remotely piloted flying wing aircraft used to demonstrate the use of solar power for long-duration, high-altitude flight. Its name denotes its mission as the 'Pathfinder' or first in a series of solar-powered aircraft that will be able to remain airborne for weeks or months on scientific sampling and imaging missions. Solar arrays covered most of the upper wing surface of the Pathfinder aircraft. These arrays provided up to 8,000 watts of power at high noon on a clear summer day. That power fed the aircraft's six electric motors as well as its avionics, communications, and other electrical systems. Pathfinder also had a backup battery system that could provide power for two to five hours, allowing for limited-duration flight after dark. Pathfinder flew at airspeeds of only 15 to 20 mph. Pitch control was maintained by using tiny elevators on the trailing edge of the wing while turns and yaw control were accomplished by slowing down or speeding up the motors on the outboard sections of the wing. On September 11, 1995, Pathfinder set a new altitude record for solar-powered aircraft of 50,567 feet above Edwards Air Force Base, California, on a 12-hour flight. On July 7, 1997, it set another, unofficial record of 71,500 feet at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, Kauai, Hawaii. In 1998, Pathfinder was modified into the longer-winged Pathfinder Plus configuration. (See the Pathfinder Plus photos and project description.)
Publication Date: Jan 01, 1997
NIX (Document) ID:
EC97-44288-1
(Acquired Aug 02, 2006)
Document Type: Photograph
Publication Information: The Armstrong Photo Gallery includes the latest images from the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center as well as the legacy photos from the Dryden Flight Research Center.
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