China flies ‘quasi-satellite’ into near space — RT World News

Solar-powered vehicle is equipped for a variety of long-term monitoring operations, chief designer says

China successfully tested its first large, exclusively solar-powered drone designed to fly in near space on Saturday, the country’s state-owned aircraft maker said. The vehicle could perform some of the functions currently performed by satellites.

According to the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), the vehicle, named Qimingxing 50, or Morning Star 50, took off in the city of Yulin in northwest China and landed safely after a flight 26 minutes.

The company said that after its maiden flight, all system components of the UAV were in good condition. He also noted that the drone features a very high aspect ratio and the first twin-fuselage configuration for its size, and is powered solely by solar energy.

According to the statement, the aircraft is powered by six electric motors and is designed to conduct long-term operations in near space.

Zhu Shengli, the drone’s chief designer, called it “quasi-satellite“, adding that the aircraft can undertake a wide range of operations, including high-altitude reconnaissance, forest fire monitoring, atmospheric environment inspection, aerial mapping and communication signal relay. .

He said the solar-powered drone would improve China’s operational capability in near space and over oceans. According to several experts, at an altitude of 20,000 meters or more, where there are no clouds, the drone can use its solar panels to their maximum capacity, which can allow the vehicle to stay in the air for as long as that his solar equipment is operational. .

According to an unnamed Chinese aerospace expert interviewed by the Global Times, satellite services are not always available due to the limited number of satellites and air passes that follow a relatively fixed schedule. However, he said near-space drones could offset these disadvantages in time-critical missions. He noted that satellite services could also be sabotaged in times of war, so near-space drones can replace them in this scenario.

Qimingxing 50 is not China’s first space drone, with two Chinese space companies having already built models of solar-powered drones capable of flying at similar altitudes.

The United States and the United Kingdom also have such capabilities. The UK’s solar-powered Airbus Zephyr is capable of flying at an altitude of 21 km, and in late August the high-altitude Airbus Zephyr S stayed in the air for 64 days, just hours away from breaking the record of the world, before crashing.

The world record for the highest altitude reached by a solar drone, 29,524 meters, was achieved by the American Helios Prototype, developed by the technology company AeroVironmentInc in California, in August 2001.

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