Solarstratos Atmospheric Solar Plane Revealed in Switzerland

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solarstratos atmospheric solar plane revealed in switzerland: swiss-company solarstratos has unveiled a solar plane aimed at reaching the stratosphere. the ‘solarstratos’ is a sleek, white two-seater aircraft with elongated wings covered in 22 square meters (237 feet) of solar panels, and it is set to become the first manned solar plane to make a stratospheric flight in history.

all images © solarstratos

solarstratos‘ aims to be the first piloted solar-powered aircraft to enter the stratosphere. it has been designed by calin gologan (pc-aero GMBH, solarstratos’ technical partner). to achieve its feat, the aircraft will really be pushing the boundaries of flight. with a wingspan of 24.8 meters and weighing in at 450 kg, the tandem twin-seater aims to fly just like a conventional aircraft.

switzerland meets an airplane for science

the solarstratos will fly at a very rarely-visited altitude, in a fragile environment, powered only by solar energy, without giving off any pollutants of any kind. as it explores the edges of space, the swiss company are keen to help protect our atmosphere – it’s one of their mission priorities. by traveling to the earth’s stratosphere, this will enable it to take measurements that have never been carried out before.

taking measurements in the stratosphere

the mission will last some five hours: a two-hour climb to approach space, fifteen spectacular minutes in the stars, and another three hours to return. pushing the limits of today’s knowledge and technology, the flight is not without its dangers. aircraft and pilot alike will be subjected to extreme temperatures – around 70°c below zero – and cosmic radiation. the aircraft will not be pressurised, so the pilot will have to wear a spacesuit, powered only by solar energy.

understanding the effects of climate change

a successful flight will open up the way for solar electric aviation at the frontier of space. this marks a first step towards solar drones, set to be much cheaper than existing satellites. the mission will also allow entirely new measurements, never before performed, to be taken at a rarely-visited altitude, free from any pollution at all – enabling humankind to achieve a better understanding of the effects of climate change on the atmosphere.

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