Solar Impulse 2 has become the first fuel-free plane to successfully circumnavigate the globe.
8/14/16 5:00 am chumakdenis 1
It has been awhile since we heard any news from Solar Impulse – truth to be told, we were seriously thinking that the project was dead.
Nonetheless, our fears were wrong – the Solar Impulse 2 project is more alive than ever.
SI’ vehicle has crossed 40,000 kilometers (around 25,000 miles) without recharging and has become first in the world fuel-free plane to successfully circumnavigate the globe.
Crazy, isn’t it?
I guess that pilot as well as his ‘bird’ deserve enormous amount of accolades* hip hip hurrah*
Just try to imagine all that….yikes, it seems to me that my brainpan is way too small to ‘digest’ all that stuff simultaneously.
Let’s break this news into small pieces and learn more about all aspects of this truly grand event separately.
Solar Impulse 2
Solar Impulse 2 is a seriously nifty machine. Its 236-foot wingspan makes it wider than a Boeing 747, but the thing is just 5,000 pounds. 17,000 rigid, photovoltaic panels charge four super-efficient batteries, which make up nearly a third of the weight.
Interesting fact: aircraft’s four 17.4-horsepower motors aren’t the fastest: the plane tops out only 90 mph.
* wingspan of 72 meters
* 17,248 photovoltaic cells (enough to fly at daytime and accumulate energy for the whole night, it could theoretically stay in the air forever)
* weight of 300 kg (5,070 lbs), including 633 kg is battery pack
* four motors, each of 17.5 HP or about 13 kW for total 50 kW output
* top speed of 90 km/h (56 miles per hour)
Difficulties on the path
At a few points in the 17-leg journey, it sure looked like Solar Impulse 2 wouldn’t make it. The pilots faced terrible weather over the Pacific ocean —storms are particularly bad news for a sun-powered plane. Then the Pacific leg also fried the plane's batteries, leading to a nine-month delay — the team sure made the best of that, raising an extra $20 million from sponsors and adding a battery cooling system. Then in May, another ordeal: power outage in Dayton, Ohio, deflated the plane’s bespoke hangar and slightly damaged the plane.
In mid-July, Piccard’s upset stomach delayed the final leg between Cairo, Egypt, and Abu Dhabi.
And in a final twist of irony, the sun tried sabotaging the mission.
Super-hot temperatures (like, 119 degrees Fahrenheit hot) over the Saudi Arabian desert postponed the trip once again.
Which is all to say: setting records is hard.
However, it didn’t seem to bother much Solar Impulse 2 pilot.
Piccard and Borchberg, two protagonist of our story, went through so much more -- yoga, meditation, breathing exercises…and these are only a few of things that the pilot did to not loose muscle tone in coffin-like cockpit.
Do you still thing that it was biggie for them?
Tears of joy
It’s a historic achievement for the electric aircraft, powered solely by solar energy.
Here’s what Solar Impulse 2 team said on that:
We have now just watched our shared dream unveil, becoming a reality. It’s with great emotion that I write this last blog to report on the Round-the-World solar flights. Emotions, tears, relief, exhilaration is what we are all feeling right now after completing the first Round-the-World solar flight in history.”