Next leg of Solar Impulse round-the-world flight pushed back to April 2016
The Solar Impulse team has announced that the completion of its round-the-world solar flight will now be postponed until next April. The batteries of the Solar Impulse 2 solar-powered aircraft sustaineddamage as the aircraft ascended to an optimal energy-managementaltitude of 28,000 ft (8,534 m) on the first day of itsambitious Japan-to-Hawaii flight. Itis believed that a high rate of climb coupled with over-insulation ofthe gondolas resulted in irreversible overheating damage to the aircraft'sbatteries.
Whilstthe aircraft was able to safely reach its destination, the incidentrepresents a serious setback to the endeavor, which thus farhas been a story of triumph and hardship. The team states that thefailure was not a technical or design issue, but rather an evaluationerror in accessing battery cooling requirements in the tropicalclimate.
In the context of theambitious design and scope of the project, technical delays such asthose currently being experienced were foreseeable, if not on somelevel inevitable. Yet, despite these setbacks, Solar Impulse 2 hasachieved remarkable milestones in the aviation sphere.
Even on the five-day flight to Hawaii on which it sustained the catastrophicbattery damage, the aircraft managed to make its mark in the historybooks, smashing the record for the longest distance and duration fora solar aviation flight, and setting the record for the longest-eversolo flight of any kind. Not bad for an experimental aircraft with awingspan greater than that of a Boeing 747-8I, built largely frommaterials lighter than paper, and four engines powered by 17,248solar cells.
It is expected that theSolar Impulse 2 will remain at a hangar in Kalaeloa Airport, Hawaii,as the team makes repairs to the airplane. Should the refit go withouta hitch, the aircraft will take to the skies in earlyApril as the team attempts to continue its epic migration, with the nextport of call situated on the west coast of the US.
Source: Solar Impulse