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BARKING SANDS, Hawaii (AP) _ High level clouds over the Hawaiian island of Kauai on Sunday delayed NASA's bid to achieve a world altitude record by a non-rocket powered aircraft for yet another day.

The Helios Prototype flying wing will attempt to fly three times higher than any commercial jet. The unmanned, solar-electric powered aircraft is capable of reaching an altitude of 100,000 feet under ideal weather, NASA said. Saturday's scheduled flight was also delayed by clouds.

``I think the team is disappointed, but everybody realizes it's part of the business,'' said Kevin Petersen, director of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. ``Our whole purpose is to be successful, so we look for the right opportunity.''

At 1,557 pounds flying weight, the Helios is lighter than most automobiles.

Although the skies over Kauai appeared clear, NASA officials said high level cirrus clouds, which are primarily made of ice crystals, could add weight, reduce lift and disrupt the aircraft's balance.

NASA said if the Helios does not lift off by late August or early September, it will have to wait until next summer. If Monday's flight is canceled, NASA will try again starting Thursday.

The aircraft soared 76,000 feet on its test flight last month. The record is 85,068 feet, set by an SR-71 aircraft in 1966.

NASA developed the Helios with AeroVironment Inc., of Monrovia, Calif., in a bid to build a remotely piloted aircraft that could replace space satellites for some applications.

The Helios is envisioned as a surrogate satellite, or low-cost telecommunications relay platform capable of providing high speed Internet access. It also is the best platform for measuring the earth's atmosphere at the 60,000- to 100,000-foot level, and can be used for such purposes as accurately tracking hurricanes, NASA said.


On the Net:

AeroVironment: http://www.aerovironment.com

Helios: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Projects/Erast/helios.html