R&D in Moscow
At the end of September, we spoke of the tests carried out on Raphaël with the space suit made by our partners Zvezda in Moscow. Testing a space suit isn’t an easy job and it taught us plenty. First, temperature: Raphaël experienced a simulated flight to 13,000 metres at a temperature of -55° Celsius. Even with a heating system, extremities, including the hands, suffer from the cold. Consequently, we are going to have to improve the heating system so that Raphaël’s extremities do not freeze. The second lesson we learned: it isn’t easy to move in a space suit when it is pressurised. In fact, it is even difficult to bend legs and move feet. This is a problem for a pilot who needs to be precise on the rudder bar. Fortunately, the arms have more range. Consequently, we are going to have to adapt the controls so that plane is piloted with the hands only. With SolarStratos, the true meaning of research and development emerges! Find out more in our latest StratosTime!
A new partner
We are pleased to welcome Gaznat SA as a new partner! The Vevey-based company will supply our Mercedes-Benz B 250 E gaz (loaned by our partner Group Leuba) with natural biogaz. We use this car amongst others to pull the airplane, and thanks to this partnership, Raphaël has become a 100% biogaz driver. SolarStratos’ mobility is CO2 neutral but on top of this, Gaznat tops Raphaël’s consumption in Biogaz and reinjects it into the network. We wish to thank Gaznat and all our partners for their trust and support.
An operational and welcoming base
Raphaël and his team have used the last weeks of summer to improve the welcome area for VIPs, partners and journalists at the SolarStratos operational base. The South-East corner of the hangar is fully dedicated to the well-being of our guests: a “home-made” bar and a lounge, under a beautiful aluminium panel with the logos of all the partners that enable SolarStratos to exist!
This autumn, the Romandy Trade Fairs will publicise our eco-adventure. For example, we are preparing our exhibit at the Broyard Fair with our partner Soleol, from 17 to 26 November. Come to see for yourself!
See you soon!
The SolarStratos team.
The hot temperatures of the summer months might be moving south, but the mercury continues to soar at the SolarStratos base, particularly for Raphael trussed up in his space suit. We paid Zvezda, our Russian partners in Moscow, a visit this month to test our space suit in a depressurised chamber. Fortunately, Raphael was luckier than poor Captain Haddock who found a mouse at the bottom of his suit (for those who remember the famous Tintin story ‘Destination Moon’)! Other than a few drops of perspiration, Raphael was able to experience the effects that he will feel in the cockpit during his record breaking flight.
SolarStratos welcomes a key team member to the design group this month: Thomas Sandmann is an aeronautical engineer and becomes SolarStratos’ chief engineer for airworthiness and the reference person for the Federal Office of Civil Aviation. His contribution will allow us to reach the stratosphere with maximum security!
In parallel to Thomas’ studies, the technical team initiated its optimisation work on the aircraft this month, including on the tail and the rudders. The aim is to stabilise the aircraft and lighten the carbon structure to be able to fly two up. It is not an easy matter, but it will take a lot to discourage our technicians and engineers!
Beyond its technical aspects, SolarStratos is also an important communication tool for the promotion of renewable energies. To this end, Raphael and the team host events at the Payerne base and participate in others. This month saw the Leuba Group test hybrid cars on the runway in front of the SolarStratos hangar. Sixty people, including Raphael, put the hybrid and electric vehicles through their paces, overlooked by the solar plane. In mid-September, Raphael shared his passion for aviation by jumping from a helicopter with Geraldine Fasnacht during the 61st edition of the Gordon Bennett, the oldest aeronautical competition in the world. What a sight to see the SolarStratos logo emblazoned across his parachute amid the giant gas-powered balloons.
We also had the opportunity to exhibit a model of the solar aircraft at Geneva Airport. From 11-14 September, thousands of passengers saw the mini-SolarStratos, giving awareness of our eco-adventure a huge boost.
A busy month as you can see!
Thank you all for your loyalty. Until next month and our next newsletter!
The SolarStratos team.
Images of Gordon Bennett 2017 are copyright © Yves Erismann
The summer holidays are over and the entire team at SolarStratos is back at work. We hope that you enjoyed the warm months and that your batteries are recharged. Ours are! A good thing given how busy our next chapter promises to be! However, before we tell you all about this, let’s recap what happened over the past few months…
After crossing the Atlantic Ocean towards and then back from Canada, our solar bird is now back to its roots in Payerne; needless to say that we celebrated its homecoming with our friends and partners in due style!
Further afield, Raphael and Roland’s visit to the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, provided an exciting highlight. SolarStratos played a key role in the Swiss House, and was presented to the public through a movie. We also had the great opportunity to introduce our mission To the Edge of Space directly to the president of the Confederation, Doris Leuthard, who engaged with the eco-explorers during her visit to the Pavilion.
Now that we have achieved our summer objectives, it is time for our team to move on to the next phase of optimisation of the aircraft. Indeed, our first test flights highlighted a few updates that need to be completed. Our technical team will definitely be busy over the next few weeks.
In parallel Raphaël will focus on training in the simulator ahead of the altitude record we hope to achieve over the winter. Will we succeed in beating Bertrand Piccard and SolarImpulse’ altitude record and fly above 10,000 meters ?
Stay tuned to find it out; follow us on the social networks and on our website.
A bientôt from the SolarStratos team!
There is no respite for the SolarStratos team! There is barely time to savour the success of their maiden flight before they move on to the next phase of the operation!
The next step takes the team to Canada in June where SolarStratos will be the guest of honour at the Festival Nordique du Quebec in Montreal from the 15-22 June. During the second half of the event, from 19-22 June, 130 mayors from the largest cities in the world will gather in Montreal for the Metropolis Congress. For a few intense days, Raphael will give lectures and the public will have an opportunity to admire the plane, based near the Old Port. The event will culminate in an exhibition flight over the St Lawrence River.
Wondering how the aircraft is travelling to Canada?
The plane was dismantled on 19 May and stored in its trailer, which was then placed in a 40ft container. It left on the month-long voyage by ship from Basel, via Rotterdam and is due to arrive in Canada in mid-June. This solution not only makes it possible to optimise the transport costs and the carbon footprint, but also to take the plane anywhere in the world – even to the heart of a city.
We are looking forward to sharing our solar bird with our neighbours across the Atlantic and of course we have you to thank you for it. Without the unwavering support of our Club members (have you joined?) and above all, our partners, none of this would be possible.
We would like to take advantage of this newsletter to welcome our new Official Suppliers: OPAN concept, Leuba Group and Henniez. Thank you for believing in SolarStratos!
Thanks to all our partners, we are making the helio-stratospheric dream come true.
Until next month!
Raphael and the SolarStratos Team
What an incredible adventure! Beads of perspiration gathered on our brows and a cold sweat ran down our backs, but after several weeks of hard work, our labour finally paid off! We got there! SolarStratos flies!
On Friday, the 5th of May 2017, our test pilot Damian Hischier took command of the aircraft. The taxiing tests on the tarmac and the runway were conclusive. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation issued our ‘permit to fly’. We were ready. All that remained was for SolarStratos to take off. No small feat for a prototype!
Imagine for just a moment the emotion when Damian lined up ready for take-off. The whole team was willing it to go well. The plane was lined up, there was no wind. Damian engaged the full power of the electric motors and the plane started to move forward. It gathered speed, faster and faster, (as did our heartrates!) and then all of a sudden, the wheels left the ground. The ultimate adrenalin rush was swiftly followed by a fleeting moment of disbelief before we all exploded with joy!
“We did it!” exclaimed Raphael, feeling the same sensations as seven years ago when PlanetSolar was launched in north Germany. At these moments, the emotions eclipse any of the tough times. Pride and joy merge with memories of all the sacrifices that led to this historic moment on the SolarStratos journey.
With this step completed, we can look forward to the next adventures with peace of mind. Of course, the road to flying at very high altitude is long, but we are confident of getting there. The intention is to get there step by step with confidence.
Our current objective is for Raphael and his co-pilot, Thierry Plojoux, to master SolarStratos so that we can demonstrate the aircraft’s flight capabilities at a major event in Quebec in June.
We will tell you more about this soon, but in the meantime, stay up to date on our progress via our social media networks or through our monthly newsletter. And don’t forget this eco-adventure belongs to you too! Don’t hesitate to sign up to our Club if you haven’t already, and spread the word! Together we will reach the edge of Space powered by solar-energy.
Thank you for your support and see you in a month! We wish you a good start to Spring.
Raphael and the SolarStratos team
We are almost there!
After many long months of hard work and intense round trips between Hurlach in Germany – where SolarStratos was built – the CSEM in Neuchatel and Payerne, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The aircraft will soon be ready to deploy its solar-powered wings!
We are just weeks away from the first round of test flights, which we hope will take place in March.
Before handing SolarStratos over to test pilot, Klaus Plasa, however, there is still plenty to do. The final photovoltaic components need to be installed on the wings and the stabilisers at the rear of the aircraft, close to the rudder. Once this phase is complete, the wings will be transported from Neuchatel to Payerne to be attached to the fuselage.
It is a bit like LEGO, but with zero margin for error. The slightest damage, particularly to the carbon fibre structure, could have serious consequences on the continuation of the mission. Months would be lost trying to repair what has taken a long time to create. Concentration and precision are crucial if we want to see SolarStratos fly powered by the sun.
Dear friends, if the ground tests are conclusive and if we obtain the final authorisations from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation, and if the weather permits, then SolarStratos will take a major new step forward. We hope to provide you with beautiful images of this historic moment in next month’s newsletter. Cross your fingers for us!
Stay up to date with our news on social media and if you would like to participate more tangibly in our mission to fly on the edge of Space, then we invite you to join our Club.
See you soon!
Raphael and the SolarStratos Team
Payerne, Switzerland, 7 December 2016 – Raphael Domjan’s stratospheric solar plane was unveiled this morning in Payerne, Switzerland, to 300 guests, including ambassadors, partners, government representatives and the world’s media.
The unique 8.5-metre-long aircraft has a wingspan of 24.8 metres, weighs 450 kilogrammes and is covered with 22m2 of solar panels. It will be the first manned solar-powered aeroplane to penetrate the stratosphere.
“This is a great day for the SolarStratos team,” said Raphael Domjan, creator of PlanetSolar, the first solar-powered boat to do a circumnavigation in 2012 and the initiator and pilot of the SolarStratos project.
“Our goal is to demonstrate that current technology offers us the possibility to achieve above and beyond what fossil fuels offer. Electric and solar vehicles are amongst the major challenges of the 21st century. Our aircraft can fly at an altitude of 25,000 metres and this opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space.”
Reaching the stratosphere over the past century has required large quantities of energy or helium. Today, the SolarStratos aircraft offers clean solar and electric aviation for the equivalent environmental footprint of an electric car.
“We are extremely pleased with the positive feedback and encouragement that we have received,” said Roland Loos, CEO of SolarXplorers S.A., the organisation in charge of the development and future applications of this endeavour. “Our project brings hope and makes both children and adults dream. It also opens the door to new scientific knowledge – at an affordable price, exploration and the peaceful use of our stratosphere.”
The SolarStratos team is in the final stretch ahead of the official presentation of its solar aircraft to the world. November has arrived, and this is the month when the Roll Out will take place. The event will take place on December 7, in the SolarStratos base on the Payerne airfield. By then the aircraft must be ready and the base built and decorated in order to welcome all guests and media.
The construction of the base began on September 29 by installing large concrete blocs as ballast. Then all just happened at unbelievable speed in less than a month and now the building that will host the first two-seater solar airplane in the world is well out of the ground! It remains only to be decorated before the aircraft is delivered.
Concerning the solar bird, its construction is also nearing completion. It is adorned with a beautiful white paint, which aims to ensure protection and optimum lightweightness while having a modern look. The wings are now closed and they have gone through vibration, stress and heat tests. They are currently with our partner CSEM for the installation of the photovoltaic cells. Meanwhile, the fuselage is also being finalized. Electronic tests are successful (for the engineers who read us, imagine that there are nearly 100 A which pass through 24 wires in a carbon tube of only 2 cm in diameter!); it’s time to fill the fuselage with electronics and wiring, engine, batteries, propeller, cockpit instruments, seats … Once everything is finished, the plane will be transported in a trailer to Payerne where the final assembly will be done!
Raphael and his team are on track to achieve the first major step in the writing of the SolarStratos eco-adventure. Soon, the helio-stratospheric aircraft will not only be a synthetic image, but a real airplane! We look forward December 7, and to share this historic moment!
Thank you for your support! See you soon !
Raphael and the SolarStratos team
Raphaël Domjan and the SolarStratos team are bringing their stratospheric project to life with the commencement of construction on their hangar at the Payerne airport Aeropole site in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. This operational base for SolarStratos will house the first solar stratospheric plane. The Canton of Vaud, the city of Payerne and the Broye region are also on board in this venture and providing support for the implementation of the SolarStratos project at the Aeropole.
That’s it! The 3 axes simulator of SolarStratos was unveiled to the public during the first day of the Numerik Games Festival in Yverdon-les-Bains, Switzerland, with a demonstration of Raphaël Domjan.