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"A penny for your thoughts"

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bertrand Piccard Solar Plane seeks funding

The prototype of Solar Impulse

Solar Plane Concept

Swiss adventurer, shrink and family man Bertrand Piccard who piloted the first hot-air balloon, who along with co-pilot Brian Jones,
Bertrand Piccard (left) and Brian Jones
nonstop around the world in 1999, said construction work had begun on a prototype of the "SolarImpulse" plane, which he believes can fly day and night with no fuel or emissions. The International Air Transport Association under pressure to find ways to reduce carbon emissions and tackle fuel costs, declare that it will support the project by helping with matters such as obtaining air traffic control clearance.
Bertrand Piccard

As proof that his project is not pie in the sky, Piccard has managed to convince some big investors to pony up much of the budget, set at approximately SFr70 million. If the global flight goes ahead, the biggest threat will be strong winds and an extra SFr30 million funding is needed for the whole project, which aims in part to demonstrate the feasibility of flying on solar energy.

The aircraft must be very rigid and will most likely be built with advanced carbon materials.It will need to be very light and use very little energy at night. Energy storage is the biggest challenge for solar flight." Piccard estimates that enough power can be generated to sustain a flight of roughly 60 miles an hour (97 kilometers an hour). The batteries used to fly the plane at night must be incredibly dense, capable of storing 200 watts per kilogram (2.2 pounds).Nearly the entire body of the plane will be covered by 287 square yards (240 square meters) of solar panels.

The test flight is reprojected to 2009 and would make its first solo flight round-the-world attempt in 2011. Plans call for the flight to be conducted in four stages over 15 days, with stops on several continents to switch pilots. The proposed aircraft resembles a glider, but with a mammoth 70-metre wingspan, exceeding that of a Boeing 747. Completely covered by solar cells and equipped with possibly two tail-mounted propeller engines, the plane will be capable of unassisted take-off and will carry the necessary batteries for night flying. The Solar Impulse solar-powered aeroplane must keep above the clouds to capture all available sunlight, at an altitude of 10 000 to 11 000 metres, where the temperature is around –55°C.

While Piccard's long-duration flight would be a first, other groups have already attempted solar-powered flight. NASA and its private-sector partner AeroVironment, Inc., have been trying for years to develop such an aircraft.They achieved success in 1997 when the NASA Pathfinder—a lightweight, unmanned, flying wing—climbed to 71,500 feet (21,793 meters) under its own power.In 2001 the remotely piloted Helios aircraft reached an altitude of some 96,863 feet (29,524 meters)—an unofficial world-record altitude flight for a solar plane.But disaster struck two years year later. During a 2003 flight test, Helios experienced uncontrolled, up-and-down movement of its nose. The craft partially broke up in flight, then crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii."The loss of Helios was due to aerodynamic issues rather than any problem with the fuel cells or power output," said Alan Brown of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. NASA plans to launch its next solar-powered flight also in 2009.

His father, Jacques, designed the bathyscaphe, a deep-sea submarine in which he(and Don Walsh )plunged 10,911 m (35,797 ft) to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean's Mariana Trench in January 23,1960. The first man to take a balloon into the stratosphere is grandfather Auguste with Paul Kipfer, took off from Augsburg, Germany, in 1931.On August 18, 1932, launched from Dübendorf, Switzerland, Piccard and Max Cosyns made a second record-breaking ascent to 16,200 m (53,152 ft). He ultimately made a total of twenty-seven balloon flights setting a final record of 23,000 m (72,177 ft).
Don Walsh and Jacques Piccard(left picture)

Auguste Piccard (1927)(Right Picture)
The Piccard Family

* Auguste Piccard (physicist, aeronaut, balloonist, hydronaut)
o Jacques Piccard (hydronaut)
+ Bertrand Piccard (aeronaut, balloonist)
* Jean Felix Piccard (organic chemist, aeronaut, and balloonist)
o Jeannette Piccard (wife of Jean Felix) (aeronaut and balloonist)
+ Don Piccard (balloonist)

"Solar Impulse will show that a win-win situation is possible in supporting the environment without threatening the world economy and our mobility."

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