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2023 : fly higher!

Setting a solar-powered altitude record

The SolarStratos mission welcomes 2023 with enthusiasm and determination, driven by the inexhaustible solar energy that it promotes. Against the backdrop of the global energy and climate situation, the objective of this pioneering adventure has become even more crucial. “Faced with the eco-anxiety of young people in a collapsing world, SolarStratos seeks to offer prospects to enable them to dream and project themselves into a brighter future. This is the driving force behind our adventure,” explained Raphaël Domjan.

But to play its part in triggering a definitive shift towards solar energy and the preservation of the planet, the project needs to show results and demonstrate performance. “After last year’s test flights, and even though the challenge of reaching the stratosphere in this aircraft must seem like a dream beyond the realm of possibility, the time for serious things has come,” said Roland Loos, SolarStratos CEO.

This newsletter – our first of the new year – reveals what is in store for HB-SXSA as soon as the aircraft returns from Germany where it is being fitted with a new engine. Are you ready to fly high? Really high?

Setting records and using thermals to do it

This spring, HB-SXSA will return to the skies equipped with a new 50 kW engine that has a more efficient variable pitch propellor – installed in January in Germany – and with the knowledge and adjustments gained from the 22 test flights achieved in 2022. The goal is to fly higher. The mission is not only to break records, but to set an altitude record using a solar electric aircraft! But rising to the challenges of such a technological endeavour requires adaptation and thinking out of the box. One such challenge will be for SolarStratos to climb from 1,000 to 5,000 metres without drawing from its batteries too much. To do this, the pilot will seek out thermals and rely on these updrafts. Sion airport has been identified as the ideal location, a venue that proved itself successful for Raphaël Domjan and Géraldine Fasnacht’s first wingsuit jump last year. A specialist meteorologist will be supporting the team.

Some 2023 calendar highlights

In addition to breaking records and setting new ones, 2023 will see several highlights – at the end of January, the young American aerospace enthusiast and influencer, Alyssa Carson will pay a visit to Switzerland. And HB-SXSA is also planning to appear at several major aeronautical events. More on this soon!

Universities enter the fold

On 8 December, World Climate Day reminded us of the urgent need to act on environmental issues. Need we remind you of the figures? According to the World Meteorological Organisation’s report, the average temperature in 2022 exceeded that of the pre-industrial period (1850-1900) by 1.15°C, due to human activities. And gas concentrations in the atmosphere are making it increasingly difficult to stay below the 1.5°C warming threshold outlined in the 2015 Paris Agreement. This urgency is a driving force for SolarStratos, and we applaud the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie project that seeks to make the 1,000 French-speaking universities, grandes écoles and research centres that it oversees, the cornerstone of a solid and sustainable educational ecosystem for the protection of the planet.

Goodbye Iris – see you on the tarmac for the first record!

Iris Muller’s cheerful and efficient contribution to the great team that is SolarStratos was a welcome addition during her 2022 internship as a marketing and communications trainee under the leadership of Jennifer Uldry, head of partnerships and events. Her position came to an end on 20 January, and the team wished her an emotional farewell. Raphaël Domjan, Roland Loos and Jennifer Uldry all recognised the work of this ‘sunny’ employee. Iris’s words touched everyone: “This year has been incredibly enriching. My thanks to you all. I have been inspired by every one of you.” Fly well Iris and good luck in the future, and as agreed, we’ll see you on the tarmac for the first record attempt!