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Resuming flights

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