Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Space Technologies Aid Solar-powered Global Flight Bid

Date:
April 1, 2004
Source:
European Space Agency
Summary:
ESA's Technology Transfer Programme is to supply state-of-the-art technologies to assist adventurer Bertrand Piccard's flight around the world in a single-pilot solar-powered aircraft, as the ultimate demonstration of the potential for pollution-free flight.

The Solar Impulse single-pilot aircraft will be designed to fly around the world powered only by solar energy. It will be constructed using ultra-light materials and be able to fly during the night on batteries charged during the day.
Credit: s: Artist concept: Oxyde.de-Sapristi / EPFL – Solar Impulse

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme is to supply state-of-the-art technologies to assist adventurer Bertrand Piccard's flight around the world in a single-pilot solar-powered aircraft, as the ultimate demonstration of the potential for pollution-free flight.

Related Articles


Back in 1999 Piccard and co-pilot Brian Jones were the first people to balloon around the world non-stop. Piccard has now launched Solar Impulse to repeat his global circumnavigation, this time in a pollution-free solar-powered aircraft. This ambitious project is being presented at the '32nd International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products' to open in Geneva, Switzerland, this week. The proposed aircraft resembles a glider, but with a mammoth 70-metre wingspan, exceeding that of a Boeing 747. Completely covered by solar cells and equipped with possibly two tail-mounted propeller engines, the plane will be capable of unassisted take-off and will carry the necessary batteries for night flying.

Several domains have already been identified where European space expertise could provide leading-edge technologies: they include batteries and solar cells, energy management systems, ultra-light composite structures and monitoring systems to check the health of the pilot.

The sky's the limit for sustainable development

For the Solar Impulse project, Piccard is again teaming up with Brian Jones, his co-pilot aboard the record-breaking Breitling Orbiter 3 balloon five years ago. He has appointed engineer and pilot Andrι Borschberg as project manager and third pilot of the team.

"The challenge this time is to influence the history of air transportation by exploiting new technologies that satisfy the demands of our era for sustainable development and the use of only renewable forms of energy," Piccard explains.

ESA's Technology Transfer Programme is providing technological support while the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne is the 'Official Scientific Advisor' of the project.

"The primary source of energy on our satellites is the Sun, as for Piccard's plane," says Pierre Brisson, Head of ESA's Technology Transfer Programme. "We have developed some of the world's best solar cells and advanced energy storage and power management systems, all key technologies onboard our spacecraft. They will be a good starting point for Piccard's effort."

The EPFL institute has just completed a feasibility study for the project analysing existing technologies. Yves Perriard, director of EPFL Integrated Actuators Laboratory and one of the lead scientists of the study, confirmed: "We know that it is possible to create a structure completely powered by the Sun." EPFL was an obvious choice for this study. The institute conducted the thermodynamic research for the successful Piccard-Jones 1999 balloon flight and is the official scientific advisor to the Swiss Alinghi sailing team, current holder of the American Cup.

100% solar powered at 10 km altitude, flying round the clock

The Solar Impulse solar-powered aeroplane must keep above the clouds to capture all available sunlight, at an altitude of 10 000 to 11 000 metres, where the temperature is around –55°C.

Its cockpit may have to be pressurised for longer missions and its construction will require the use of the latest technologies in ultra-light materials. The most important challenge will be to build the large aeroplane with a very lightweight structure capable of carrying sufficient batteries for night flight.

The electrical requirements pose another key engineering challenge – how to store sufficient solar power during the day to continue the flight throughout the night.

Perriard explains: "It is really a war against all the losses in the power system from solar cells to the motors."

The EPFL study says that current off-the-shelf lithium-ion batteries provide just under 200 watt-hours per kilogram (Wh/kg), enough to support a single-pilot plane, while a two-pilot solution would require a capacity of at least 300 Wh/kg.

The plan is to design and construct the first prototype aircraft in 2004-2005, with initial test flights in 2006. The next step is to complete night flights in 2007, initially at least 36 hours including one full night. From then on flying lengths are to be increased. . Innovative solutions will be required to store the necessary food and water while reduce weight to a minimum – familiar problems for ESA engineers designing space missions.

When will the Solar Impulse fly around the world, non-stop? "It is planned to cross the Atlantic in 2008 and fly around the world with stop-overs in 2009," says Andrι Borschberg, "To fly around non-stop depends very much on how quickly we will have higher energy density batteries…but not before 2009."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by European Space Agency. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

European Space Agency. "Space Technologies Aid Solar-powered Global Flight Bid." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 1 April 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040401081908.htm>.
European Space Agency. (2004, April 1). Space Technologies Aid Solar-powered Global Flight Bid. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040401081908.htm
European Space Agency. "Space Technologies Aid Solar-powered Global Flight Bid." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/04/040401081908.htm (accessed December 21, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Building Google Into Cars

Building Google Into Cars

Reuters - Business Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Google's next Android version could become the standard that'll power your vehicle's entertainment and navigation features, Reuters has learned. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP Review: Nikon D750 and GoPro Hero 4

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) — What to buy an experienced photographer or video shooter? There is some strong gear on the market from Nikon and GoPro. The AP's Ron Harris takes a closer look. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Double-Amputee Becomes First To Move Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) — A double-amputee makes history by becoming the first person to wear and operate two prosthetic arms using only his mind. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins