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!
A bientôt !
Le team SolarStratos
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.
Copyright images Gordon Bennett 2017 © 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!
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.”