Solar Impulse 2 Is Ready to Fly into the History Books this Week

Author James Mash 26.5.2015. | 14:48

After making it safety to China in April and then later on to Nanjing the Solar Impulse team is almost ready for their next big leg.

This will test the solar powered aircraft, pilot and the full support team beyond anything experienced to date on their around the world journey.

Having already covered more than 7000KM in 6 hops that started in Abu Dhabi on the 9th of March the team will be looking at adding over 8000KM in the next leg, which is the most ambitious yet and will almost certainly smash some records as well as set some new fists in aviation history. Like the longest duration journey in a single-seater plane and furthest flight of a solar powered plane.

The reason we have waited over a month is due to the weather. Conditions are crucial for this solar powered craft to be able to recharge its batteries in the day so as to ensure it has enough charge to get through the night.

Mission Director Raymond Clerc was quoted by the BBC as saying, “Even with 100% charge, by the next morning we would have only 10% or maybe 7%. So, if we go into the night with 90% charge, we are at zero the next morning.”

Clearly getting the weather forecast right and avoiding high cloud cover is a serious issue that a team of meteorologists are tasked with overcoming by finding a suitable fair weather window for the 5 or 6 days it will take to get to Hawaii.

Having now found a suitable weather window the Solar Impulse team and Swiss pilot Andre Borschberg face a moment of truth, this will not only be a test of engineering but also of endurance.

Source: BBC + Solar Impulse

Source: BBC + Solar Impulse

This 8000+ KM journey would take less than 12 hours in a commercial airliner but for the propeller driven, solar powered aircraft it will take around 5 or 6 days to fly from Nanjing to Hawaii. There won’t be much time to sleep and cat naps of around 20 minutes will be all Borshchberg will get as he needs to remain fairly alert through the whole flight duration.

That is because despite having a wingspan of over 70 meters and weighing 2 tonnes Solar Impulse 2 is still susceptible to turbulence and bad weather which will require all of Borschberg’s 40+ years of flying expertise.

Andre Borshberg will be climbing Solar Impulse 2 each day to around 28,000 feet in order to get optimal sunlight on the 17,000 solar cells. He will then descend every evening after the sun goes down and repeat the process each day. As the cabin isn’t pressurized this too will be a test for the pilot.

Read more about the Solar Impulse adventure.

Author James Mash 26.5.2015. | 14:48
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