Record-breaking Perlan 2 glider soars ever closer to the edge of space

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The Perlan 2 glider in action during a record-breaking flight last week.

Airbus’ Perlan 2 glider is continuing to push the limits of engineless flight, hitting a succession of record altitudes throughout the last week, culminating in a unprecedented 76,000-ft (23,000-m) climb on Sunday.

The overarching objective of the Perlan project is to harness what are known as stratospheric mountain waves to soar upwards to the edge of space without using an engine. These powerful airstreams are created when winds collide with tall mountain ranges and are diverted upwards.

The Perlan 2 engineless glider is built to leverage these waves with an ultralight construction that tips the scales at just 1,100 lb (500 kg) when empty, and a generous wingspan of 84 ft (27 m). Following its maiden flight in Oregon in 2015, when it reached an altitude of 5,000 ft (1,524 m) after being released from its towplane, the team promptly set its sights on far, far greater heights.

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