Solar Powered Plane, The Solar Impulse Reminds Us That The Ultimate Power Is The SUN

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Dear Friends, Viewers/Visitors/Readers,

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If you’ve been following Sun Is The Future since 2011, you may remember the two posts on Solar Impulse that I wrote about on July 14, 2011:  Solar Impulse HB-SIA-Solar Plane (1) and Solar Impulse-SIA-Solar Plane (2).  For those of you visiting Sun Is The Future for the first time, here are some information provided by wikipedia, below:

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project being undertaken at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. The project eventually hopes to achieve the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power. The project is led by Swiss psychiatrist and aeronaut Bertrand Piccard, who co-piloted the first balloon to circle the world non-stop, and Swiss businessman André Borschberg.  The first aircraft, bearing the Swiss aircraft registration code of HB-SIA, is a single-seater monoplane, capable of taking off under its own power, and intended to remain airborne up to 36 hours.

This aircraft first flew an entire diurnal solar cycle, including nearly nine hours of night flying, in a 26-hour flight on July 7-8, 2010. In 2012, Piccard and Borschberg conducted successful solar flights from Switzerland to Spain and Morocco. In 2013, plans call for a flight from California to Virginia.  Building on the experience of this prototype, a slightly larger follow-on design (HB-SIB) is planned to make a circumnavigation of the globe in 20–25 days. This flight was initially planned for 2014, but following a structural failure of the aircraft’s main spar during static testing, a more likely date is 2015.

Piccard initiated the Solar Impulse project in 2003. By 2009, he had assembled a multi-disciplinary team of 50 specialists from six countries, assisted by about 100 outside advisers. The project is financed by a number of private companies. The four main partners are Deutsche BankOmega SASolvay, and Schindler. Other partners include Bayer MaterialScience, Altran and Swisscom. Other supporters include ClarinsSemper, Toyota, BKW and STG. The EPFL, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Dassault have provided additional technical expertise, while SunPower provided the aircraft’s photovoltaic cells.

With a non-pressurized cockpit and a limited flight ceiling, the HB-SIA is primarily a demonstrator design. The plane has a similar wingspan to the Airbus A340 airliner. Under the wing are four nacelles, each with a set of lithium polymer batteries, a 10 hp (7.5 kW) motor and a twin-bladed propeller. To keep the wing as light as possible, a customised carbon fibre honeycomb sandwich structure is used. 11,628 photovoltaic cells on the upper wing surface and the horizontal stabilizer generate electricity during the day. These both propel the plane and charge its batteries to allow flight at night, theoretically enabling the single-seat plane to stay in the air indefinitely. The first manned flight overnight lasted about 26 hours in July of 2010.

The aircraft’s major design constraint is the capacity of the lithium polymer batteries. Over an ideal 24-hour cycle, the motors will deliver a combined average of about 8 hp (6 kW), roughly the power used by the Wright brothers‘ pioneering Flyer in 1903. As well as the charge stored in its batteries, the aircraft uses the potential energy of height gained during the day to power its night flights.

On  June 26, 2009, the Solar Impulse was first presented to the public in Dübendorf, Switzerland. Following taxi testing, a short-hop test flight was made on December 3, 2009, piloted by Markus Scherdel.

On  April 7,  2010, the HB-SIA conducted an extended 87-minute test flight, piloted by Markus Scherdel. This flight reached an altitude of 1,200 m (3,937 ft).

On May 28,  2012, the aircraft made its first flight powered entirely by solar energy, charging its batteries in flight. On July 8, 2010. the HB-SIA achieved the world’s first manned 26-hour solar powered flight.  The airplane was flown by Andre Borschberg, and took off at 6:51 a.m.Central European Summer Time (UTC+2) on July 7 from an airfield in Payerne, Switzerland.  It returned for a landing the following morning at 9:00 a.m. local time.  During the flight, the plane reached a maximum altitude of 8,700 m (28,500 ft).  At the time, the flight was the longest and highest ever flown by a manned solar-powered aircraft; these records were officially recognized by the Federation Aeronoautique Internationale (FAI) in October, 2010. On  May 13, 2011, at approximately 21:30 local time, HB-SIA landed at Brussels Airport,

 

 

 

 

Solar Impulse aircraft at Brussels Airport in May of 2011

 

 

 

 

after completing a 13-hour flight from its home base in Switzerland. It was the first international flight by the Solar Impulse, which flew at an average altitude of 6,000 ft (1,829 m) for a distance of 630 km (391 mi), with an average speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). The aircraft’s slow cruising speed required operating at a mid-altitude, allowing much faster air traffic to be routed around it. The aircraft was piloted by Andre Borschberg. The project’s other co-founder, Bertrand Piccard, said in an interview after the landing: “Our goal is to create a revolution in the minds of people…to promote solar energies — not necessarily a revolution in aviation. A second international flight to the Paris Air Show was attempted on  June 12, 2011, but the plane turned back half-way and landed back in Brussels, where it had taken off, due to adverse weather conditions. In a second attempt on  June 14, André Borschberg successfully landed the aircraft at Paris’ Le Bourget Airport at 9:15 pm after a 16-hour flight.

On  June 5, 2012, the Solar Impulse successfully completed its first intercontinental flight, flying a 19-hour trip from Madrid, Spain, to Rabat, Morocco. During the first leg of the flight from Payerne, Switzerland, to Madrid, the aircraft broke several further records for solar flight, including the longest solar-powered flight between pre-declared waypoints (1,099.3 km (683 mi)) and along a course (1,116 km (693 mi)).  Below is a video clip of CBS News 60 Minutes on Solar Impulse in December of 2012:

 

Construction of the second Solar Impulse aircraft, carrying the Swiss registration HB-SIB, started in 2011. It will feature a larger, pressurized cockpit and advanced avionics to allow for transcontinental and trans-oceanic flightsSupplemental oxygen and various other environmental support systems will allow the pilot to cruise at an altitude of 12,000 meters (39,000 ft). The wingspan of HB-SIB will be 80.0 m (262.5 ft), slightly wider than an Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger airliner,but unlike the 500-ton A380, the carbon-fibre Solar Impulse will weigh little more than an average automobile. Completion was planned for 2013, with a circumnavigation of the globe in 20–25 days in 2014. However, following a structural failure of the main spar during static tests, a more likely date for the circumnavigation is 2015. The flight would circle the world in the northern hemisphere, near the equator. Five stops are planned to allow changes of pilots. Each leg of the flight will last three to four days, limited by the physiology of each pilot. Once improved battery efficiency makes it possible to reduce the aircraft’s weight, a two-seater is envisaged to make a non-stop circumnavigation.

Gathered and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

Any of your comments/suggestions/questions are welcomed at sunisthefuture@gmail.com

Homepage:  http://www.sunisthefuture.net



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