Solar pushed aeronautics boundaries earlier this year when a solar-powered plane finished its circumnavigation of the globe. Now a group wants to take solar to new heights—the stratosphere.
Raphael Domjan, creator/pilot of the first solar-powered boat to circumnavigate the world, PlanetSolar, has now unveiled the world’s first manned, solar-powered aircraft that could reach the earth’s stratosphere yesterday in Payerne, Switzerland. The two-seater SolarStratus, a solar-powered airplane, will begin medium altitude test flights in February 2017.
Journeys to the stratosphere used to take huge amounts of energy and helium. The SolarStratos is designed to reach space with clean solar power, equivalent to the environmental footprint of driving an electric car. In another first, Domjan will wear a spacesuit also powered by solar energy to reduce the overall weight of the unpressurized aircraft.
“Our goal is to demonstrate that current technology offers us the possibility to achieve above and beyond what fossil fuels offer. Electric and solar vehicles are amongst the major challenges of the 21st century. Our aircraft can fly at an altitude of 25,000 meters (82,000 feet) and this opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space,” said Domjan.
The plane is a 27.8 foot, 990-pound aircraft covered with 22 square meters of solar panels, that has the ability to fly at an altitude of over 82,000 feet. The SolarStratus team estimates stratosphere test flights will take 2.5 hours to reach the edge of space, then about 3 hours to return to earth.
The SolarStratus project was conceived to beat the world altitude record for a manned solar plane of 30,298 feet set by Solar Impulse pilot Andre Borschberg in 2010. This July that aircraft completed the first circumnavigation of Earth by a manned solar-powered aircraft.
“We are extremely pleased with the positive feedback and encouragement that we have received. Our project brings hope and makes both children and adults dream. It also opens the door to new scientific knowledge – at an affordable price, exploration and the peaceful use of our stratosphere,” said Roland Loos, CEO of SolarXplorers S.A.Tweet