December 3, 2023

BAE System has successfully launched its High Altitude Pseudosatellite (HAPS) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) PHASA-35 solar-powered drone into the stratosphere, reaching an altitude of more than 66,000 feet (20,000 meters) in a 24-hour high-altitude test flight.

The recent test by a team of British engineers on 25 June 2023 over Spaceport America at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico represents a new phase in the PHASA-35 program which began in 2018 and saw the first launch in 2020. fly. The most recent test was sponsored by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technology Center.

The solar-electric drone has a wingspan of 35 m (115 ft) and is capable of carrying a payload of 15 kg (33 lb), including advanced composite materials, energy management systems, solar cells, photovoltaic arrays and rechargeable batteries. The batteries are likely to be very light, as the soaring properties of the PHASA-35 mean that it can glide for a considerable period of time at night before gaining altitude after dawn.

PHASA-35 is designed to stay in the air for up to a year at a time
PHASA-35 is designed to stay in the air for up to a year at a time

British Aerospace Systems

The purpose of PHASA-35 is to create an unmanned aircraft that can stay aloft for a year at a time, hovering over a wide area above the weather and air traffic, where it can act as a pseudolite. Its main purpose is as a military reconnaissance and command and control platform, which can be quickly deployed in an area. In addition to carrying sensors, it could be used as part of a communications network, provide 4G and 5G coverage and other forms of data transmission in the event of natural disasters, support border patrols, and serve as an alternative to traditional airborne and satellite systems for commercial applications.

“PHASA-35 is breaking new ground and bringing new possibilities to the stratosphere,” said Cliff Robson, Group Managing Director, BAE Systems Aviation Division. “The team combines BAE Systems’ global expertise with innovative solar and power management technologies. Together, they have demonstrated tremendous commitment and ambition in addressing the challenges associated with new technologies and approaches. This collaborative approach is key to our ability to enhance our defense expertise through new thinking and technology.”

The video below recaps the flight.


source: British Aerospace Systems