Phantom Ray gets ready for 747 ride west

Washington DC
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Boeing's Phantom Ray unmanned air vehicle is being readied to head west to the Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB in California, the company says.

A NASA shuttle carrier aircraft (SCA) - a modified Boeing 747 - with the Phantom Ray on top conducted a short check flight from Lambert International Airport in St Louis, Missouri, prior to being prepared for its transfer flight.

 
© Boeing

"This is exciting not just because it's the first time that an aircraft other than the space shuttle has flown on the SCA, but also because it puts Phantom Ray that much closer to making its first flight," said Craig Brown, Phantom Ray programme manager for Boeing.

With no wing break on the hardwing attachment, taking the UAV apart and moving it over land would have been problematic, according to Boeing.

The SCA flights with Phantom Ray are being conducted under a Boeing-funded, commercial Space Act Agreement with NASA. At Dryden, the UAV will undergo ground and high-speed taxi tests to prepare for its first flight in early 2011. A 10-flight test regimen is planned for the new year.

Boeing's new medium-altitude unmanned air vehicle successfully completed low-speed taxi tests in November at Lambert. Phantom Ray, unveiled in May, received orders from its ground control station and autonomously proceeded down the runway several times.