CHALLENGE

2015 is the year Solar Impulse has been working towards: the beginning of the attempt of the First Round-The-World Solar Flight. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, our two Pilots and Founders, will fly around the world with no fuel, rising up to technical, human and operational challenges that have never been faced before.

MISSION 2015: THE FIRST ROUND-THE-WORLD SOLAR FLIGHT

The route: From the deserts of the Persian Gulf, dodging the unrelenting Indian monsoon, flying over the Burmese temples and the great wall of China, followed by two oceans crossings (with an American “dream” break in between), all to come back around to where it all began in the Persian Gulf.

The Airplane: Solar Impulse 2, the Round-The-World Solar Airplane, has been developed to meet the #RTW challenges. Larger in wingspan than a Jumbo Jet, but as light as a SUV, this solar airplane presents structural and aerodynamic features never before encountered.

The Pilots: one after the other, Bertrand and André will take place alone in the cockpit for the #RTW legs.

 

EXPLORATION IN EXTREME CONDITIONS

Building and flying a solar airplane around the world is something many consider impossible. Discover the 3 main challenges our pilots and team will face:

1. To build an aircraft capable of flying day and night powered only by solar energy: it required the optimization of new technologies and a drastic reduction in weight and energy consumption. The whole team had to push back the frontiers of knowledge in materials science, energy management and the human-machine interface.

2. Flying a solar airplane over more than 5 days and 5 nights across the oceans, alone in a 3.8m3 cockpit at the same altitude as a commercial airplane with no pressurized cabin… this is what Bertrand and André will have to achieve one after the other in order to succeed.

3. Operating such an extra-ordinary aircraft around the world has never been done before. Completely new solutions had to be found.

 

Pacific Ocean, July 19th

Not this time around.

The Pacific has really rejected me this year. I'm not just talking about the postponement till next year of the flight from Hawaii to the US mainland ...

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Pacific Ocean, July 19th

Not this time around.

The Pacific has really rejected me this year. I'm not just talking about the postponement till next year of the flight from Hawaii to the US mainland which I'd so been looking forward to. You can easily imagine how disappointing that was. No, what I'm talking about here is my return flight to Switzerland... by scheduled airline.

Heaven only knows why, but all the passengers had decided to close their window-blinds and total darkness reigned. I could only imagine the sublime view outside as the sun kissed the ocean. For the first time in years, I had failed to get a window seat. I plucked up courage to ask my neighbour why he'd lowered his blind, hinting that it was partly mine too.  He can find nothing better to say than that everybody had done it. That's the answer I hate most. Is it a reason? Not for me anyway, who had been looking forward to contemplating this stretch of the Pacific in advance of next year's trip. I'd had a wonderful view of it from my balloon 16 years earlier - a vast expanse that makes you lose your bearings, but find your own self. But also the little cumulus clouds strung together like pearls on a celestial necklace that will determine Solar Impulse's cruising altitude at night, as well as the spreading cirrus that would threaten the solar exposure of our photovoltaic cells.

 

These drawn window-blinds tell me clearly that this is not my year for the Pacific. At least the message isn't lacking in clarity!


Bertrand Piccard

You can find this story on carandache.com

Despite the hard work of the Solar Impulse team to repair the batteries which overheated in the record breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the solar powered airplane of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016.  

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Despite the hard work of the Solar Impulse team to repair the batteries which overheated in the record breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the solar powered airplane of Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will stay in Hawaii until early spring 2016.  

Following the longest and most difficult leg of the round-the-world journey which lasted 5 days and 5 nights (117 hours and 52 minutes), Solar Impulse will undergo maintenance repairs on the batteries due to damages brought about by overheating.

During the first ascend on day one of the flight from Nagoya to Hawaii, the battery temperature increased due to a high climb rate and an over insulation of the gondolas. And while the Mission Team was monitoring this very closely during the flight, there was no way to decrease the temperature for the remaining duration as each daily cycle requires an ascend to 28’000 feet and descend for optimal energy management.

Overall the airplane performed very well during the flight. The damage to the batteries is not a technical failure or a weakness in the technology but rather an evaluation error in terms of the profile of the mission and the cooling design specifications of the batteries. The temperature of thebatteries in a quicks ascend / descend in tropical climates was not properly anticipated. 

Irreversible damage to certain parts of the batteries will require repairs which will take several months. In parallel, the Solar Impulse engineering team will be studying various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights.  

The University of Hawaii with the support of the Department of Transportation will host the airplane in its hangar at Kalaeloa airport. Post maintenance check flights will start in 2016 to test the newbattery heating and cooling systems. The round-the-world mission will resume early April from Hawaii to the USA West Coast. From there Solar Impulse will cross the USA to JFK in New York before making the Atlantic crossing to Europe and then returning the point of departure in Abu Dhabi.

Solar Impulse is attempting a historic first of flying around the world only on solar energy. And while Solar Impulse has completed 8 legs, covering nearly half of the journey, setbacks are part of the challenges of a project which is pushing technological boundaries to the limits. Solar Impulse will try to complete the first ever round-the-world solar flight in 2016 and this delay will in no way influence the overall objectives of this pioneering endeavour.


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