First of the test flights
On 23 July, at dawn, SolarStratos took to the skies above Payerne once again for the first of many test flights – such great news for the whole team and its supporters! July was a busy month of preparations leading up to this moment: at the beginning of the month, test pilot Miguel A. Iturmendi, ran some low and medium speed tests on the tarmac at the base in Payerne. These tests were conclusive, so the technical team made various adjustments to prepare the aircraft for its first flight in 2020.
In parallel, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation issued the permit to fly and so, on Thursday 23 July, SolarStratos rolled out of the shed and took off for a low altitude flight lasting 20 minutes! Miguel A. Iturmendi, one of the team’s test pilots, was at the controls and relished the opportunity to familiarise himself with the solar prototype. On landing, he was very happy with the first experience: “I got some good feedback. SolarStratos feels like a big and very good glider. The aircraft’s climbing performance is good, better than I imagined. And you have to be vigilant when landing as the plane needs a long landing distance.”
This first flight and the upcoming test flights are designed to settle technical details in order to be able to gently increase the altitude and duration of the flights.
Here are the details of the maiden flight from the point of view of the technical team:
Thursday 23 July 2020: it is still dark at the Payerne airport. Raphaël Domjan, Roland Loos, test pilot Miguel A. Iturmendi and the entire technical team meet at the SolarStratos base.
0515: technical briefing and reminder of the planned flight manoeuvres
0530: radio and weather checks with the control tower and the chief flight officer
0540: review of synchronisation procedures, turn on measuring instruments (in particular the GPS) and sensors (flight recorder)
0545: pre-flight checks and inspection of the plane
0550: SolarStratos leaves the hangar
0600: engine system check
0630: radio check with the control tower, gate is opened
0645: taxi to runway for take off
0700: take off and first flight lasting 20 minutes
0720: soft landing and return to the base
This maiden flight was a moment of celebration for the technical team who were watching everything from the airport terrace and a happy moment for Raphaël who exclaimed: “We are back in the air! Thanks everyone! It’s awesome!”
Next came a debrief for the test pilot and the technical team, followed by a well-deserved coffee and croissant!
Welcome to our new partner
SEGULA Technologies is a French engineering group that leads projects in many different fields, including aeronautics. They are joining SolarStratos as partner and the team welcomes them onboard and thanks them for their support!
The fact that we are able to fly again is thanks to your unconditional support and we are delighted to be able to share these exceptional moments of our eco exploration with you. Thank you all for being at our side and for your continued support. We look forward to continuing this SolarStratos Mission together and are excited to be at the very beginning of a magnificent adventure.
We wish you a wonderful summer and look forward to seeing you again soon!
Raphaël Domjan and Roland Loos
The solar-powered aircraft SolarStratos resumes flights
Two years of technological development paid off this morning as the solar-powered aircraft, SolarStratos, took to the skies above the team base in Payerne, Switzerland. The team has its sights set on a number of world records and world premieres this year and the exciting project has attracted new partners eager to join the explorer, Raphaël Domjan and his team.
Payerne, Switzerland, 23 July 2020 – Raphaël Domjan and the SolarStratos team are delighted to announce that the SolarStratos test flights have resumed. The team’s renewed activity will include a series of firsts that will culminate in 2021 with an attempt at high altitude flight powered exclusively by solar energy.
“Despite the complex situation we are currently experiencing, we are in an extremely positive phase of our project,” said Raphaël Domjan, the mastermind and pilot behind the mission. “In recent weeks, all the pieces of the puzzle have come together and this morning, at long last, we flew again with our test pilot Miguel Iturmendi at the controls, and everything went smoothly.”
To maximise on weather conditions, SolarStratos took off at 6:50 am. The aircraft soared effortlessly on its elegant new wings equipped with winglets at 800 metres above the Payerne aerodrome for twenty minutes before touching down again.
“The changes made in recent months have borne fruit,” said Raphaël Domjan. “The plane is more stable and reliable than during our first round of test flights. Today we are beginning a new chapter that will allow us to reach extraordinary goals, to make the public dream and to convey a positive message on the potential of solar energy to fight climate change.
The SolarStratos experimental project was launched in December 2016 and has undergone rigorous development over the years, gaining great experience at the cost of occasionally complex challenges, but without ever deviating from the ultimate objective. On July 6, 2018, the left wing of the aircraft was broken during a stress test at the team’s base in Payerne, no one was injured, but the various procedures that resulted from the incident and the design of the new wings caused significant delay. Resuming the test flights was further delayed by the recent Covid-19 health crisis.
The SolarStratos operations team is on standby to continue the test flights scheduled for tomorrow weather-permitting, with the aim of extending the aircraft’s flight range.
This exciting new phase of the project has attracted new partners, including the consulting company Segula, who will work on digital simulations, and the law firm NVB in Neuchâtel, who will manage any legal aspects relating to the eco-adventure.
“We are fortunate to benefit from loyal partners who completely understand that SolarStratos is a unique and sensitive experimental aircraft,” said Roland Loos, the team CEO. “The pioneering spirit of this project means that we are breaking new ground in terms of technological challenges and it is thanks to the understanding and loyalty of our partners that we have been able to pursue this project.”
The SolarStratos test pilots will take it in turns to fly while Raphaël Domjan continues with his training to fly this unique aircraft. The first series of flights will be with a single pilot, after that two-handed flights will be scheduled, and the plane will gradually fly at a higher and higher altitude.
So, after a two-year (very active) hiatus, SolarStratos has at last taken off again and the whole team is delighted to share the next stage of the eco-adventure with the public.
Photos copyright Fred Merz / SolarStratos