Boeing readies Phantom Eye for return to flight

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Boeing's Phantom Eye high-altitude, long-endurance testbed is ready to fly again - following a hard landing after its first flight in June 2012.

Strengthened landing gear and software and hardware upgrades will enable higher-altitude tests from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, following 40kt (75km/h) taxi tests on its launch cart on 6 February.

The 150ft (46m) wingspan aircraft is capable of carrying a 440lb (200kg) payload and features what Boeing describes as an "innovative and environmentally responsible liquid-hydrogen propulsion system creating only water as a by-product".

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The objective is to stay on station for up to four days at up to 65,000ft. The June 2012 flight ended in a mishap when the landing gear dug into the Edwards lake bed and broke. "We've drawn on Boeing's experience to come up with a solution using our tactical fighter aircraft landing systems as an example," says chief engineer Brad Shaw.