Aurora Flight Sciences Unveiled its Orion Unmanned Air System

Aurora Flight Sciences unveiled its Orion unmanned air system, ademonstrator that will stay aloft for up to five days, on 22 Novemberin Mississippi.

Orion was selected by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) inlate August to meet the objectives of the Medium Altitude Global ISRand Communications (Magic) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration(JCTD).

The programme's goal is to demonstrate a five-day flight of the Orionat 20,000ft (6,100m) with a 453kg (1,000lb) intelligence, surveillanceand reconnaissance payload.
First flight is expected in mid-2011, the company says. Orion wasdeveloped under the sponsorship of both the AFRL and the US Army Spaceand Missile Defense Command and with Aurora private funding.

Aurora claimed victory over Lockheed Martin on Magic with Orion inSeptember. The Virginia-based company is doing most of the work on theproject from its Columbus, Mississippi, facility under the $4.7 millioncontract win.

Before the contract announcement, the company had hoped to make a firstflight with the UAV in late October 2010. However, the schedule wasslowed to enable the parties to evaluate payload options, concepts ofoperations and then grow and refine the requirements, Aurora says.

The AFRL's requirements for Magic's medium-altitude, extremepersistence aircraft are for it to remain airborne for up to 155h whilecarrying a 226kg payload at 15,000ft. The same aircraft also would beexpected to carry a 1,130kg payload for up to 80h at the same altitude,it says.

Aurora says Orion is relatively low-risk for a demonstration project.Rather than the liquid hydrogen fuel route other experimentalhigh-altitude, ultra-long endurance aircraft are following, its designis powered by the same Austro diesel engines used on Aurora's Centauroptionally piloted vehicle, based on the Diamond DA42.

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