Boeing has revealed more details about the timeline, plans and capabilities of the high-altitude long-endurance Phantom Eye unmanned aircraft system.
Phantom Works president Darryl Davis says the hydrogen-powered, subscale demonstrator is on track to fly in January 2011.
Schedules posted inside the Phantom Eye production hangar suggest a date of around 20 January.
Final assembly of the Phantom Eye fuselage is within weeks of completion. One of two 2.4m (8ft)-diameter fuel tanks has already been installed inside the exposed frames of the centre fuselage.
The tail of the Phantom Eye was scheduled to be delivered on 24 June, Davis says.
Perhaps only 40 parts remain to be delivered to complete final assembly, says Andrew Mallow, Phantom Works director of advanced operations and prototype programmes.
The aircraft is due to be shipped by truck to NASA's Dryden research facility in California on 8 August, according to internal schedules.
But the overall schedule could change dramatically depending on the outcome of ongoing contract negotiations with Boeing's machinists union in St Louis.
Boeing has designed the Phantom Eye to beat the long-endurance record posted by the company's Condor aircraft in 1989. The unmanned Condor flew for 56h. Phantom Eye should achieve a 96h endurance on its third test flight. First flight for Phantom Eye could extend between 4h and 8h.
The 45.7m wingspan aircraft is a 60% subscale demonstrator of Boeing's operational concept for Phantom Eye, which should be able to carry a 907kg (2,000lb) payload for seven days or a 454kg payload for 10 days.