Airbus UpNext’s glider, Blue Condor, made its first hydrogen-powered flight over Nevada, United States, on November 8. The flight, the company’s first to use hydrogen as its sole fuel source, kicked off a test campaign that will culminate with a contrail measurement mission in early 2024 .
A glider to study…
The modified glider at the center of Airbus UpNext’s hydrogen-burning contrail experiment, Blue Condor, has made its first hydrogen-powered flight over Nevada, United States. United, November 8. The flight, the company’s first to use hydrogen as its sole fuel source, kicked off a test campaign that will culminate with a contrail measurement mission in early 2024 .
…The composition of hydrogen contrails
While hydrogen offers aviation a path to low-carbon operations, its combustion produces contrails, just like conventional kerosene. Hydrogen contrails, however, are very different. They do not contain soot or sulfur oxides, but nitrogen oxides and a lot of water vapor: up to 2.5 times more than the condensation trails caused by kerosene. Both types of emissions are considered to have an impact on the climate and, as such, the aviation industry has a duty to address them.
The Blue Condor project
This is why, as part of the ZEROe project, Airbus is committed to studying the composition of these little-known hydrogen contrails. Using a modified Arcus-J glider, Airbus UpNext’s Blue Condor project will take a small hydrogen-burning engine up to 30,000 feet and compare its emissions to those of a gas-powered engine. kerosene of similar size, flying parallel aboard a second plane. Both gliders are operated by the Perlan project and the hydrogen engine was assembled by the German company Aero Design Works.
A first flight of 30 minutes
Blue Condor has now entered its flight test phase. The Nov. 8 flight lasted about 30 minutes and was intended to increase the thrust of the hydrogen engine to 7,000 feet, while stabilizing the plane at different speeds. Two more flights have taken place since then, during which tests were carried out, including an engine start at 10,000 feet. The Blue Condor team plans to conduct an initial contrail survey during Nevada’s cold weather period early next year. Then, the Arcus-J will be towed to the test altitude by a Grob Egrett aircraft instrumented by the German aerospace laboratory DLR. This “pursuit” plane will then follow, using sensors to collect and analyze data relating to contrails and the atmosphere. This flight promises to be a big step forward in understanding the impact of hydrogen on the climate and ultimately in achieving Airbus’ ZEROe goal of entry into service in 2035 .