Solar Impulse airplane - a real breakthrough in aviation

Solar Impulse is the only airplane of perpetual endurance, able to fly day and night on solar power, without a drop of fuel

6/7/14 7:56 am chumakdenis 2

Solar Impulse is a worldwide phenomenon.This out-of-this-wolrd plane has showed us that planes are able to fly only on solar power without a drop of fuel. Well, I could say that this plane may bring to us (already brang) a real breakthrough. But let's figure out more.

History

Even before reaching its final goal of flying around the world in 2015, the echoes of Solar Impulse’s successes were carried by the media far and wide…

From the initial hops on the tarmac in Dübendorf to the first ever night flight on solar power in 2010; from the first international flights to Belgium and France in 2011 to the first intercontinental crossing from Europe to Morocco in 2012; from the crossing of the USA in 2013 to the ultimate goal of flying around the world in 2015, Solar Impulse has been attracting a lot of interest, and its achievements have been enjoying continuous worldwide media coverage.

And that is no wonder because this feather-light, slender and silent “bird” is making history…and not just aviation history. As one of his founders often likes to say, “Solar Impulse was not built to carry passengers, but messages”!

Primary objective was to show that today’s technological innovations can achieve incredible things, like flying day and night powered only by solar energy without using any fuel, nor producing polluting emissions. That first step has now been reached.

But Solar Impulse is first and foremost an extraordinary human and scientific adventure that brings emotions back at the heart of scientific exploration; a revolutionary innovation conceived to be a unique flying laboratory for clean technologies; a vision driven by the pioneering spirit behind all great human adventures; an experimental journey to inspire others to be pioneers and innovators in their everyday life.

Flying across America

 

699.jpgAt dawn on May 3, a one-of-a-kind electric plane called the Solar Impulse, fueled only by solar panels sealed into the skin of its 747-size wingspan, departed Silicon Valley for its first flight across America. The two-month journey – which includes stops in Phoenix, Dallas, St. Louis, and Washington,D.C., before reaching its final stop in New York in July – is a test run and fundraising campaign for the project's ultimate mission: the first sun-powered circumnavigation of the globe. The founders of the Solar Impulse company, Swiss adventurers Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg, plan to make that flight in 2015, after constructing a larger, more high-performance plane. Borschberg, an ex-fighter pilot, is the project's chief engineer, while Piccard outlined the team's mission and pitched it to investors.

Piccard hails from a long line of explorers, and gained fame in 1999 as the first person to travel nonstop around the world via hot air balloon – a feat that ate up nearly four tons of propane. Stunned by that wastefulness, he vowed to make his next circumnavigation fuel-free.Rather than wait for the technology that would make such a trip possible, Piccard and Borschberg developed it themselves. "We calculated that we needed a plane with the wingspan of a jumbo jet and the weight of a small car," Piccard says. "All the airplane industry people said we were crazy, so we found people in other fields. The guy who built the hulls of the Alinghi boats for the America's Cup made our carbon fiber pieces." Fourteen years later, they've created a plane that, in theory, can fly forever. It climbs toward the sun during the day, electric motors driving its propellers. At night, it glides slowly down, burning the sunlight banked in its 882-pound batteries. The only limit to flight is a pilot's ability to stay awake. For Piccard, who flew the initial, ­19-hour leg of the trans-American flight, that was no challenge. "Piloting the Solar Impulse is like a meditation," he says. "You can't think about your arrival because the flight is very long. You must stay focused on the present moment, which is beautiful. It's a state of being I like very much." 

Last stop

 

698.jpgNEW YORK (AP) — A solar-powered aircraft completed the final leg of a history-making cross-country flight Saturday night, gliding to a smooth stop at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Solar Impulse touched down at JFK at 11:09 p.m., completing the final leg of the cross-continental journey that started in California in early May. For Saturday's final leg, the aircraft left Dulles International Airport a little before 5 a.m.

The flight plan for the revolutionary plane, powered by some 11,000 solar cells on its oversized wings, had called for it to pass the Statue of Liberty before landing early Sunday at New York. But an unexpected tear discovered on the left wing of the aircraft Saturday afternoon forced officials to scuttle the fly-by and proceed directly to JFK for a landing three hours earlier than scheduled.

Pilot Andre Borschberg trumpeted the milestone of a plane capable of flying during the day and night, powered by solar energy, crossing the U.S. without the use of fuel.

"It was a huge success for renewable energy," Borschberg said while standing in front of Solar Impulse on the runway at JFK. "The only thing that failed was a piece of fabric."

Bertrand Piccard, the other pilot who took turns flying the Solar Impulse across the United States, said the flight across the country tested the entire project team.

"Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers," Piccard said. "During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels."

Borschberg noticed balance issues with the wing in the early afternoon Saturday off the coast of Toms River, N.J., said Alenka Zibetto, a spokeswoman for Solar Impulse.

Officials said the pilot and aircraft didn't appear to be in danger. They said the eight-foot tear on the lower left side of the wing wasn't expected to worsen through the final portion of the trip.

"It was supposed to be the shortest and easiest leg," Piccard said. "It was the most difficult one."

Piccard said in addition to the wing issue, another problem with the landing was Borschberg's lack of air breaks to avoid making turbulence in the wing with the tear.

Despite the relatively short distance, Saturday's commuter-like hop was a long flight that lasted 18 hours and 23 minutes. The slow-flying aircraft was traveling between two of the world's busiest airports and was required to take off very early in the morning and land very late at night, when air traffic is at a minimum.

"This is a leg where everybody is quite moved," Piccard said shortly after the plane was in the air over Washington early Saturday.

The aircraft soars to 30,000 feet while poking along at a top speed of 45 mph. Most of the 11,000 solar cells are on the super-long wings that seem to stretch as far as a jumbo jet's. It weighs about the size of a small car, and soars with what is essentially the power of a small motorized scooter.

The Solar Impulse left San Francisco in early May and has made stopovers in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Dulles.

The cross-country flight is a tuneup for a planned 2015 flight around the globe with an up-graded version of the plane.

Solar Impulse's creators view themselves as green pioneers — promoting lighter materials, solar-powered batteries, and conservation as sexy and adventurous. Theirs is the high-flying equivalent of the Tesla electric sports car.

Europe saw the solar plane first with a test flight from Switzerland and Spain to Morocco last year.

Promoted as solar-powered, what really pushes the envelope with this plane is its miserly energy efficiency, Borschberg said before the flight.

 

Solar Impulse 2 is coming

 

The chances of succeeding at the first attempt to build a solar airplane capable of flying around the world were judged to be slim, so a more rudimentary prototype, HB-SIA, was first constructed. Lessons learned from this prototype are incorporated in Solar Impulse 2, the Round-The-World Solar Airplane

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 Construction

 

 This revolutionary single-seater aircraft made of carbon fiber has a 72 meter wingspan (larger than that of the Boeing 747-8I)

for a weight of just 2,300 Kg, equivalent to that of a car.

The 17,000 solar cells built into the wing supply four electric motors (17.5 CV each) with renewable energy.

During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries weighing 633 Kg (2077 lbs.) which allow the aircraft to fly at night and therefore to have virtually unlimited autonomy.

Whereas the prototype uses existing technologies, Solar Impulse HB-SIB requires the development of new materials and new construction methods. Solvay has invented electrolytes that allow the energy density of the batteries to be increased; Bayer MaterialScience is allowing the project to make use of its nanotechnologies; and Décision is using carbon fibers that are lighter in weight than any previously seen.

The first wing spar section was delivered to Dübendorf in March 2012. However, during the final test of this central part, the structure of the wing spar succumbed to the load and broke. The initial shock soon turned out to be an opportunity: the flight around the world had to be postponed which opened the door for going to the United States and completing the epic journey across America.

After the official presentation of Solar Impulse 2 to the public on April 9th, flight testing is planned for spring 2014, and the round-the-world flight for between April and July 2015.

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Solar Impulse 2's features, in short:

Well, we don't know as much as we would like to know about this planes, but some features we figured out for our readers.

Let's have a closer look on them:

*Batteries energy density 4 x 260 Wh/kg

*Airplane Weight 2,3 tons

*Wingspan 72 meter (236')

*Solar Cells Thickness 135 micron

*Solar Cells > 17,000

*Cockpit Size 3.8 m3

Sounds quite optimistic,isn't it?

Well, we'll hope that second version could bring to us something really cool and a new era of solar powered electric aircrafts will begin in the nearest future.

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