Posts Tagged ‘Southwest Research Institute’

20 August

Sasol Solar Challenge 2014 of South Africa


Dear Friends, Visitors/Viewers/Readers,

(Please click on red links and note magenta)

Did you know about Sasol Solar Challenge 2014 in South Africa? It will be taking place starting from  Pretoria on September 27, 2014,

Pretoria, South Africa (credit: Google Map)

to Cape Town on October 4, 2014.

Cape Town, South Africa from Table Mountain (CC BY-SA 3.0 Andres de Wet-Own work)

During this eight day period, the challenge will also go through Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Colesberg, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Knysna, and Swellendam. The main route will span approximately 2000km through the country, covering an average distance of 250km a day. Teams will have the option to expand their daily distance by driving loops varying from 58km up to 132km. Loops can be driven more than once and have to be completed entirely in order to count. Towns that are included by these loops are Sasolburg, Deneysville, Winburg, Senekal, Marqueard, Edenburg, Reddersburg, Hanover, Jansenville, Klipplaat, Stormsrivier, Heidelberg WC, Witsand and Caledon. It is expected that the top teams will reach a total of 6000km, covering at least 700km a day on average. To get a feel for Sasol Solar Challenge 2014, take a look at the video below:

Below is provided by Article on Sasol Solar Challenge (from Annalie Van Vuuren, Project/Event Manager), in italics:

Why SA is suitable for a solar race

An average of 300 days of sunshine per year and a unique South African terrain will put solar technology to the ultimate test. Traveling from the high inland plateau down to the mountainous escarpments and finally to the narrow coastal zone. Founder of the Sasol Solar Challenge Winstone Jordaan had the idea of building an electric car in 2003. After visiting the World Solar Challenge in 2005 he realized that people in South Africa did not possess basic knowledge about electric cars. He was impressed by the 1400 skilled students from all over the world in Australia, and could only imagine how much knowledge South Africa would be able to gain when hosting a solar challenge as well. This knowledge will result in accomplishing the ultimate goal; an improved future for South Africa.

Mission and vision SASC

Our eco-efficiency challenge allows teams from around the world to congregate in South Africa to participate and demonstrate the sophistication and performance of solar-powered vehicles. The underlining mission of the solar challenge is to increase the number of people in South Africa that are interested in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects. These subjects are crucial to get the country to a higher level.
Next, it will give us a platform where we can exercise our skills in building cars locally. This in turn will result in an increased level of knowledge in the industry about electric motors, battery systems, vehicle aerodynamics and more. Finally, the solar cars will show the public what solar panels can do. If people see solar panels driving a car, you will have a positive sentiment to it. Being more positive to this technology will also make electric vehicles more acceptable to people.

The Sasol Solar Challenge operates under the auspices of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Motorsport South Africa. The race has four different classes. These classes include the Olympia Class, the Adventure Class, the Cruiser Class and the Sustainability Fleet.


  1. Olympia class is the primary FIA class and the main competitive class for solar-electric vehicles. These cars have to be four wheelers and are not allowed to recharge via plug-in.
  2. Adventure Class is reserved for any other solar-electric vehicles that have been allowed in any previous international solar challenges or other major events, but do not necessarily conform to the Olympia Class regulation. Again, no plug-in recharging is allowed.
  3. Cruiser Class is designed primarily for practicality and can carry two or more occupants. The vehicles in this class are allowed to plug-in recharge overnight.
  4. Sustainability fleet: To provide a forum to further demonstrate advanced technologies in personal transport applications. Many of the participants here are from the formal motor industry. These vehicles are allowed to re-charge midway and overnight.

The main objective of the first race was to run it no matter what. In the past there have been two attempts to run a race in South Africa, however, both got cancelled at the last minute. This resulted in both national and internal teams being reluctant to take part in the event in 2008. Fortunately, we managed to get …. teams competing in the first South African Solar Challenge. Tokai was one of the teams competing in South Africa. Back then they competed with an eleven year-old car they built, with which they were able to win the race. The Japanese team leveraged massively from the victory in South Africa. It enabled them to receive sponsorships and build a new car to compete with in the World Solar Challenge, and ultimately win the Australian race.

The second edition of the solar challenge included a 4 100 km route and five teams competing. The focus of this race was on recognition, compliance and alignment with the FIA. The biggest turning point is in this race that we had the first local university competing in the event. The route stretched from Pretoria down to Cape Town, going back to Pretoria via the southern- and west coast.

The aim of the 2012 event was to get more local teams participating, especially universities. A total of twelve teams competed in the third edition of the South African Solar Challenge. Half the teams competing were local teams.

2014 event

The aim of the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge is to get more oversees teams competing in the race. The challenge will start in Pretoria on September 27th
through Kroonstad, Bloemfontein, Colesberg, Graaff-Reinet, Port Elizabeth, Knysna and Swellendam. The main route will span approximately 2000km through the country, covering an average distance of 250km a day. Teams will have the option to expand their daily distance, by driving loops varying from 58km up to 132km. Loops can be driven more than once and have to be completed entirely in order to count. Towns that are included by these loops are Sasolburg, Deneysville, Winburg, Senekal, Marqueard, Edenburg, Reddersburg, Hanover, Jansenville, Klipplaat, Stormsrivier, Heidelberg WC, Witsand and Caledon. It is expected that the top teams will reach a total of 6000km, covering at least 700km a day on average.

Education program
Every town the solar challenge passes, a number of schools will get involved through the education program. This education program will entail an education kit which explains how solar-powered vehicles work and material that enables them to build their own solar car. The body of the solar car will be made from recycled material. At the finish of each day, the schools will have a miniature solar car race. Furthermore, we will strongly encourage any school to visit the race, since children are very impressed by the appearance of solar cars. This will give them the opportunity to see what a solar car looks like inside and enable them to interact with the teams that compete in the race.


We are looking forward to the 2014 Sasol Solar Challenge event. South Africa is looking forward to welcome all competitors, officials, volunteers and prospectors to the race. It is still possible for teams to join our competition, the deadline for registration is the ….. Apart from competitors, the solar challenge also needs volunteers on the race, the deadline is … See the links below for the volunteer form if you are interested to join our event.

Links of interest

Official website:

Link to registration and regulation documents:

Twitter: @Solar_Challenge

Facebook: SA Solar Challenge

Instagram: @SASolarChallenge


It will be an amazing race! So come to South Africa and see the beautiful terrain during the Sasol Solar Challenge event!

~have a bright and sunny day~

Gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker

Any of your questions/comments/suggestions will be welcomed at

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17 August

Mars Rover-Plutonium/Sun-and You (I)


Dear Friends & Visitors/Readers/Viewers,

(Please click onred linksbelow)

As I’ve mentioned in our last post (Aug. 16, 2012), previous Mars missions (Spirit & Opportunity) have relied on solar panels to power the rovers, but exploration was slowed down by dust on the solar panels or little available sunlight during short winter days.  Curiosity Rover is significantly larger and about ten times heavier than previous Martian rovers;

Mars Science Laboratory mockup comparison Curiosity (R)vs. Spirit & Opportunity (L)

it is essentially a robotic science lab, equipped with sophisticated instruments to take ground samples to analyze their chemical make-up in search for signs of life.  A lot of power is needed to operate the testing and communications equipment and to maintain a certain temperature to effectively operate on Mars (where temperature often go far below freezing).  These are the reasons that NASA chose an energy source that relies on the heat generated by decaying plutonium dioxide (fueled with 10.6 pounds of plutonium), the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG) by Hamilton Sundstrand Rocketdyne engineers in Canoga Park and the DOE, to run Curiosity.

As the mainstream media applauded the success of Curiosity Rover’s Mars Landing, there was no mention or discussion about the potential serious danger Curiosity has posed for people/life on earth  prior to arriving on Mars.  If you’d refer to our previous post/video (Aug. 16, 2012 of, there are definite risks involved during the launch and 7 minutes of terror.

Even in NASA’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, it is indicated that there is about 1-in-220 chances ( )of deadly plutonium being released “overall” on the mission.  This level of risk seems too high for my comfort level.

The question also involves when and how ( if any mishaps involving this plutonium powered space vehicle should occur) the incident should/would occur.   The 1-in-220 chance/likelihood of plutonium being released could impact a good portion of Earth.  In NASA’s Final EIS for the Mars Science Laboratory Mission, it is indicated that: a launch

Atlas V carrying NASA's MSL launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station

accident discharging plutonium has a 1-in-420 chance of happening and could “release material into the regional area defined to be within 62 miles of the launch pad,”…an area including well populated Orlando; an accident releasing plutonium in the troposphere, the atmosphere five to nine miles high, is “assumed to potentially affect persons living within a latitude band from approximately 23-degrees north to 30-degrees north.” That would include the Caribbean, across North Africa and the Middle East, parts of India and China, Hawaii, and other Pacific Islands, Mexico, and south Texas;an accident from plutonium fallout occurring above that and before the rocket breaks through Earth’s gravitational field, affected area could cover “anywhere between 28-degrees north and 28-degrees south latitude.”  That involves a band around the mid-section of the Earth including South America, Africa,and Australia.  According to EIS, the cost of decontamination of areas affected by the plutonium would be $267 million for each square mile of farmland, $478 million for each square mile of forests and $1.5 billion for each square mile of “mixed-use urban areas.”  This is in addition to the cost of mission itself of $2.5 billion.

“NASA is planning a mission that could endanger not only its future but the state of Florida and beyond,” declares John Stewart of Pax Christi Tampa Bay, a leader in Florida in challenging the launch. “The absurd—and maddening—aspect of this risk is that it is unnecessary,” says Stewart, “The locomotion for NASA’s Sojourner Mars rover, launched in 1996, and the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers, both launched in 2003, were solar powered, with the latter two rovers performing well beyond what their engineers expected. Curiosity’s locomotion could also be solar-powered. NASA admits this in its EIS, but decided to put us all at risk because plutonium-powered batteries last longer and they want to have the ‘flexibility to select the most scientifically interesting location on the surface’ of Mars.” So, I did my home work and found that the solar powered Spirit rover

Spirit Rover on Mars (artist concept:wikimedia)

was active from 2004-2010 when the mission was only for 90-sol (term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars).   Definitely, solar powered Mars rover did last a lot longer than it was designed/intended. Let’s take a look at the footage of Spirit & Curiosity, the two rovers powered by solar energy with far more spirit and curiosity than what NASA engineers expected, below:

Of the 26 U.S. space missions listed in EIS that were powered by plutonium since the 1950s, three had accidents. The worst of these three accidents (occurred in 1964) involved the SNAP-9A plutonium system aboard a satellite that failed to achieve orbit and dropped to earth, dispersed 2.1 pounds of plutonium fuel widely over the Earth.  The late medical physics professor Dr. John Gofman of University of CA at Berkeley linked this accident to an increase in global lung cancer.  After the SNAP-9A accident, NASA switched to solar energy on satellites.  Now all satellites and the International Space Station are powered by solar energy.

NASA apparently insisted on using plutonium as the power source on space probes, claiming that solar energy cannot be utilized beyond the orbit of Mars.  But in Aug., 2011, NASA reversed itself with the launch of the solar powered Juno space probe to Jupiter, stating that when the probe gets to Jupiter, “nearly 500 million miles from the Sun,” its panels will be providing electricity.   Upon further investigation, one finds that Scott Bolton, the principal investigator for the Juno mission for the Southwest Research Institute (a NASA contractor) indicated that “the choice of solar was a practical one…No plutonium-powered generators were available to him and his San Antonio-based team nearly a decade ago so they opted for solar panels rather than develop a new nuclear source.”  It makes perfect sense!  If I were designing/working on project that may use either plutonium or solar energy, my natural inclination for self preservation and preservation of human race would be to maximize the chance of solar energy being used in the project, especially if the cost of solar energy continues to drop and efficiency level continues to increase so dramatically.    More discussion will continue in the next post.  Until then….

~have a bright and sunny day~

gathered, written, and posted by sunisthefuture-Susan Sun Nunamaker,

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