Airbus Defense & Space conducted tests with the pseudo-satellite Zephyr. (video)

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In November, Airbus Defense & Space conducted tests with the pseudo-satellite Zephyr, focusing primarily on how the aircraft is handled.  

The checks took place in Arizona (USA), and for 3 weeks the agility, control, but also the functions of the system were tested. One of the main features studied was low altitude flight and the first steps towards the transition to the stratosphere.

What is the Zephyr pseudo-satellite?

Zephyr is an unmanned aircraft with solar-electric propulsion that can reach the stratosphere and fly for days, or even months, without being supplied with fuel. It is the only station that can withstand both day and night in the stratosphere, at an altitude of over 21 km.

In 2018, the satellite stayed in the stratosphere for almost 26 days, the longest flight performed by an aircraft, without being refueled. A year later, 2 Zephyr satellites crashed, but both accidents were attributed to turbulence.

Company Airbus estimates that Zephyr will be used for both military and civilian purposes. Bridging the gap between terrestrial towers, conventional aircraft and satellites, Zephyr is perfectly positioned to complement and enhance existing infrastructure.

After taking off and ascending into the stratosphere, Zephyr sails to the desired location, which can be hundreds or thousands of kilometers away, within 8 hours. Zephyr uses BLOS (beyond line of sight) functions and can be controlled from the ground, anywhere in the world.

What are the technical features?

  • Wingspan: 25m
  • Weight: less than 75 kg

Zephyr is a payload agnostic system compatible with OPAZ - the Airbus Earth observation system, designed for the stratosphere, which offers 18 cm and 70 cm electro-optical images and videos. It is compatible with advanced Airbus Intelligence processing capabilities. Zephyr is also able to integrate useful tasks provided by third parties.

Zephyr can support a wide range of payload capabilities, including, but not limited to: electro-optical, infrared, hyperspectral, passive radio frequency (RF) radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), early warning, lidar, and automatic identification system (AIS)

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