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NASA Meatball Apex Photo Collection banner

Computer generated image of Apex high-altitude research sailplane in flight

Photo Number: ED97-44119-2
Photo Date: Sept. 1997
Formats: 558x480 JPEG Image (66 KBytes)
1190x1024 JPEG Image (328 KBytes)
3030x2606 JPEG Image (2292 KBytes)

This computer-generated image depicts the current design concept of the Apex high-altitude research aircraft being developed by Advanced Soaring Concepts (ASC) for NASA’s Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program, based at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California.


The Apex High-Altitude Flight Experiment at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center was intended to probe the aerodynamics of controlled subsonic flight at very high altitudes near 100,000 feet. The unpowered craft incorporated a unique wing airfoil designed to maintain stable horizontal flight in the rarified air of those altitudes. The Apex was to have been towed tail-first to an altitude of about 105,000 feet by a large high-altitude balloon, released nose-down and transitioned to horizontal flight above 95,000 feet.

The data collected by the Apex experiment was intended to help validate airfoil design codes for future extremely high-altitude aircraft as well as the Mars Airplane proposed by NASA to aid exploration of the red planet. However, the project was cancelled in 1999 before the aircraft was completed. Data for flight at extremely high altitudes subsequently was obtained during the Helios solar-electric aircraft's record altitude flight in 2003.

Apex Home Page

NASA Photo by: NASA/ASC graphic image
Keywords: Apex; high-altitude flight experiment; Advanced Soaring Concepts; ASC; Revolutionary Concepts; RevCon; ERAST; high-altitude balloon; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; wake rake

Last Modified: December 12, 2003
Responsible NASA Official: Marty Curry
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