Boeing's high-altitude Phantom Eye technology demonstrator has secured its first customer, the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA).
The agency issued a $6.8 million contract modification to prepare Phantom Eye for installation of an unidentified payload following the aircraft's fourth flight. Boeing recently finished the third flight, and is planning a fourth for envelope expansion.
Phantom Eye, a liquid hydrogen-powered technology demonstrator, is scheduled for eight to nine flights in total.
"[MDA] will be the first payload customer for Phantom Eye starting on Flight 5 later this year," says Boeing. "Flights 5 and beyond will occur later on this year, perhaps into next year, depending on how those tests go."
Phantom Eye is capable of carrying 204kg (450lb) of payload.
"There's significant interest in Phantom Eye," says Boeing. "We wouldn't be demonstrating it if we didn't think there was a market for it. There are a number of very interested parties both in the defence side and the civilian side."
Phantom Eye first flew in June 2012, but was then grounded for a year following a mishap during landing. The aircraft is designed to fly for up to four days at 65,000ft (19,800m).
MDA did not immediately respond to questions.
Source: Flight International