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Posted on December 06, 2016

Solar powered plane to reach the edge of space

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The SolarStratos Mission began in 2014 and is the brainchild of Raphaël Domjan, eco- adventurer. He will be flying to an altitude of over 80,000 feet on board the first two-seater solar aircraft, and is already preparing for his stratospheric flight. A number of high-profile figures, including Edgar Mitchell, the sixth man on the moon, have joined the sponsorship committee of the SolarStratos Mission to lend their support to Raphaël's team.
 
Commencement of construction of the team's hangar at the Payerne airport Aeropole site in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland is under way. This operational base for SolarStratos will house the first solar stratospheric plane. The Canton of Vaud, the city of Payerne and the Broye region are also on board in this venture and providing support for the implementation of the SolarStratos project at the Aeropole. The hangar and plane are due to be publicly launched next week with test flights scheduled to begin early next year.
 
SolarStratos is said to be the first commercial two-seater solar plane in history, it will also be the first manned solar plane penetrating the stratosphere. Calin Gologan (PC-Aero GmbH - technical partner PostalSolar) is the designer. The basis of the commercial aircraft will be used and the aerodrome will be pushed to the limit of its ability to succeed. This tandem two-seater, with a wingspan of 24 meters and a weight of 450 kilos will fly like any other SolarStratos aircraft which means not perpetually.
 
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The SolarStratos Mission will fly at an altitude little frequented in a fragile environment, propelled solely by solar energy without any pollutant emissions and will give the team the possibility to make new measurements, never done before.
 
The plane
Length 8.5 meters
Wingspan 24.9 meters
Weight 450 kg
Autonomy more than 24 hours
Propulsion propeller, 2.2 m, 4 blades
Engine electrical, max. 32 kW / 2200 rpm
Engine efficiency 90%
Two seater in tandem
Energy solar
Solar cells 22 m2
Cells efficiency 22-24%
Battery lithium-ion, 20 kWh
 
For weight reasons, the vessel will not be pressurised, obliging Raphaël to wear an astronaut's pressurised suit which will function uniquely with solar energy constituting a world first.
 
The challenge is technical and human, the mission will last about five hours (two hours to ascend into space, fifteen minutes to stay up with the stars and three hours to descend). Equipped with a space suit, Raphaël will not be able to get out of the plane to avail himself the use of a parachute. Plane and pilot will be subjected to temperatures of the order -70 degrees.
 
Raphaël Domjan said "having made the first round-the-world trip powered by solar energy and having demonstrated that it is possible to travel in this autonomous way using renewable energy, it seems to me that it is necessary to go even further and overtake what has been achieved with fossil fuels. It was when we were crossing the Atlantic on board PlanetSolar that the idea of fulfilling the mythical flight of Icarus and approaching space by using solar energy was born."
 
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Source and top image: SolarStratos
Learn more at the next leading event on the topic: Electric Vehicles: Everything is Changing. Europe 2017 External Link on 10 - 11 May 2017 in Berlin, Germany hosted by IDTechEx.