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Aurora Flight Sciences Unveiled its Orion Unmanned Air System

Aurora Flight Sciences unveiled its Orion unmanned air system, a
demonstrator that will stay aloft for up to five days, on 22 November
in Mississippi.

Orion was selected by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in
late August to meet the objectives of the Medium Altitude Global ISR
and Communications (Magic) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration
(JCTD).

The programme’s goal is to demonstrate a five-day flight of the Orion
at 20,000ft (6,100m) with a 453kg (1,000lb) intelligence, surveillance
and reconnaissance payload.


First flight is expected in mid-2011, the company says. Orion was
developed under the sponsorship of both the AFRL and the US Army Space
and Missile Defense Command and with Aurora private funding.

Aurora claimed victory over Lockheed Martin on Magic with Orion in
September. The Virginia-based company is doing most of the work on the
project from its Columbus, Mississippi, facility under the $4.7 million
contract win.

Before the contract announcement, the company had hoped to make a first
flight with the UAV in late October 2010. However, the schedule was
slowed to enable the parties to evaluate payload options, concepts of
operations and then grow and refine the requirements, Aurora says.

The AFRL’s requirements for Magic’s medium-altitude, extreme
persistence aircraft are for it to remain airborne for up to 155h while
carrying a 226kg payload at 15,000ft. The same aircraft also would be
expected to carry a 1,130kg payload for up to 80h at the same altitude,
it says.

Aurora says Orion is relatively low-risk for a demonstration project.
Rather than the liquid hydrogen fuel route other experimental
high-altitude, ultra-long endurance aircraft are following, its design
is powered by the same Austro diesel engines used on Aurora’s Centaur
optionally piloted vehicle, based on the Diamond DA42.