New Icarus: SolarStratos Solar Plane
The ancient myth of Icarus, ascending high into the sky, closer to the Sun, received a new interpretation – with the advent of the SolarStratos two-seater aircraft with solar panels.
SolarStratos is the first ever commercial two-seater solar-powered aircraft and the first manned solar-powered aircraft to take off into the stratosphere. Its mission is not the transportation of passengers or cargo, but a scientific contribution to the study of the Earth’s atmosphere. SolarStratos will fly at rarely visited altitudes, in a fragile environment, using exclusively solar energy without any pollutant emissions, and will enable new measurements and research that has never happened before.
The creators of the project used a commercial aircraft as a basis, and expect to test the limits of its capabilities in the near future. To date, SolarStratos has already done several successful flights.
SolarStratos is 8.7 meters long and has a wingspan of 25 meters. It is equipped with a 32 kW electric motor and a 20 kW Li-Ion battery that is charged by 72 sq. m. solar panels. SolarStratos is capable of staying in the sky for 24 hours. In order to lighten the weight of the aircraft (now it is 450 kg), the cabin will not be pressurized, and the pilot will have to wear an astronaut suit, which will also be powered by solar energy.
The mission to study the stratosphere is planned for a short-term – about six hours:
- 3 hours to climb into the stratosphere (almost to the edge of space);
- 15 minutes among the stars;
- 3 hours on the way back.
The pilot will be able to observe the curvature of the Earth and the stars during the daytime. During the flight, the aircraft and pilot Damiano Hishier will be exposed to extreme temperatures in the -70 ° C range and pressures that are only 5% of Earth’s. Under such conditions, it is impossible to use a parachute.
By the way, this is not the first project with solar energy for the pilot – he previously made the first round the world trip on the PlanetSolar solar-powered catamaran.
The SolarStratos project was developed in Switzerland with an operational base at Peierne airfield, and its creator Rafael Domian suggests that it was developed scientific cooperation and a large number of high-tech companies that helped him to bring the idea to life.
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