This sleek two-seater should be the first manned solar aircraft heading to the edge of space.
Less than two months after the Swiss pilots completed their historic round-the-world trip on a solar powered plane, another Swiss adventurer on Wednesday introduced the solar apparatus into the stratosphere.
SolarStratos, a sleek, white two-seater with long wings, covered with 22 square meters (237 square feet) of solar panels, is set to become the first manned solar plane to reach the stratosphere. This was announced by Rafael Domien - project manager.
“Our goal is to demonstrate the existing technology, which makes it possible to achieve what fossil fuels offer,” he said in a statement after the opening of the aircraft at Payerne airbase in western Switzerland.
“Electric and solar vehicles are some of the main challenges of the 21st century,” the 44-year-old said, adding that SolarStratos “can fly at an altitude of 25,000 meters (82,000 feet).” SolarStratos plans to launch test flights in February next year. The transition to the average height will occur in the summer, and the stratosphere will begin to conquer in 2018. To reduce weight, the plane will not be under pressure, and Domien will wear a spacesuit, also connected to solar energy, which fits the mark for the first time in the world.
The statement also states that the ship can reach space: “The journey in the stratosphere will take about 5 hours: 2.5 hours to reach the place, 15 minutes in white light and stars, and then 3 hours on the way back.”
The stratosphere lying above the surface layer of the atmosphere is called the troposphere.
In mid-latitudes, the stratosphere runs from the lower boundary of 10,000 meters to the upper, 50,000 meters. Aeronautical engineers use a coarse point of reference (the Karman line), located about 100,000 meters above sea level, to define the boundary between the atmosphere and space.
The statement was made after two of the compatriots of Domien Bertrand Picard and Andre Borschberg completed the world's first round-the-world trip in a solar plane last July to demonstrate the possibilities of using renewable energy sources. Solar Impulse 2 made the round-the-world tour in 17 stages, covering 43,000 km (26,700 miles) on four continents, two oceans and three seas, spending 23 days without using fuel. Domien started his project in 2014. This is 2 years after he became the first man to sail around the planet in a boat with solar panels. He insisted on Wednesday that the ability of the aircraft to penetrate the stratosphere “opens new doors for electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space.”
To fly to the stratosphere, you need to spend a large amount of energy or helium. But SolarStratos can do this by “affecting the environment is equivalent to an electric car emissions.”
The project “offers new scientific data at an affordable price for research and the peaceful use of our stratosphere,” said Roland Loos, who heads the SolarXplorers (project development organization).