Solar heads for the stratosphere
Affordable, ‘green’ research of the earth’s stratosphere took a major step forward at Payerne, Switzerland on 7 December when Raphaël Domjan’s stratospheric Solarstratos was unveiled in front of 300 guests, project partners, government officials, ambassadors and the media. A tandem two-seat unpressurised monoplane spanning 81ft 3in and weighing 990lb, it embraces the project’s ethic to move beyond fossil-fuelled engines using a 32ke solar, electric motor driving a four-blade propeller.
The Solarstratos project was initiated in 2014, Domjan stating then that, “it will be the first manned solar-powered aeroplane to penetrate the stratosphere. Previous and current research of the stratosphere uses large quantities of energy and helium”. Some 237sq ft of solar cells cover the composite and carbon fibre airframe, powering 20kwh Lithium-ion batteries. Domjan will wear a solar energy-powered spacesuit to fly at 82,000ft on what he describes as “an eco adventure by an eco-explorer”.
Currently in the final development phase, Solarstratos’s roll-out and first medium altitude flights are planned for the coming summer, with the initial stratospheric flights following in 2018. The project is backed by Solarxplorers SA Group whose Chief Executive Officer Roland Loos said at the launch, “Solarstratos opens the door to new scientific knowledge, at an affordable price, for the exploration and the peaceful use of our stratosphere”. Geoff Jones
A computer rendering of how Solarstratos will look in flight