So­lar heads for the strato­sphere

Pilot - - NOTES -

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

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