Solar Impulse journey suspended due to damaged batteries

The aircraft called Si2 has suffered battery damages due to overheating, despite the hard work of the solar impulse team


The battery temperature increased due to a high climb rate. Photo: AFP
The battery temperature increased due to a high climb rate. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: The Solar Impulse’s attempt to fly round the world has been halted till next year because some damaged batteries will need repairs lasting several months, the solar-powered aircraft’s team said in a statement on Wednesday.

After the longest leg of the journey that lasted five days from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii in the US, the Solar Impulse had to undergo maintenance repairs on the batteries.

The aircraft, called Si2, has suffered battery damages due to overheating, despite the hard work of the solar impulse team, tweeted André Borschberg, chairman of the Solar Impulse Project and one of the pilots. The second pilot, Bertrand Piccard, is the chief executive officer of the project.

The 17,000 solar cells built into the wing, supply four electric motors with energy. During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries weighing 633kg, which allow the aircraft to fly at night.

The battery temperature increased due to a high climb rate and there was no way for the team to decrease the temperature for the remaining duration as each daily cycle required an ascent to 28,000 feet and descent for optimal energy management.

The Solar Impulse engineering team will be studying options for better cooling and heating processes for long flights at the University of Hawaii, which will host the the plane in its hangar at Kalaeloa airport. The round-the-world mission will resume early April next year from Hawaii to the west coast. Solar Impulse will then cross the US to New York before making the Atlantic crossing to Europe and then returning the point of departure in Abu Dhabi.

The Solar Impulse flight included 12 stops that include Muscat, Oman; Ahmedabad and Varanasi in India; Mandalay, Myanmar; and Chongqing and Nanjing, China. After crossing the Pacific Ocean via Hawaii, the Si2 will fly across continental US, stopping in Phoenix and New York City.

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