Solar Impulse 2 grounded in Hawaii until 2016

The Solar Impulse plane preparing for landing in Hawaii - image courtesy of Solar Impulse.
The Solar Impulse plane preparing for landing in Hawaii - image courtesy of Solar Impulse.

The Solar Impulse team has announced that its round-the-world trip will be delayed until 2016, after batteries overheated during the record-breaking oceanic flight from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii.

The Solar Impulse 2 suffered the damage during the first ascent of the record-breaking flight after the plane’s lithium batteries overheated due to “over insulation of the gondolas”, the team said in an announcement.

Temperatures remained high for the majority of the flight that lasted for 4 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes covering a distance of 7,212km.

“There was no way to decrease the temperature for the remaining duration of the flight as each daily cycle required an ascend to 28,000 feet and descend for energy management issues,” the team said in the announcement.

The Solar Impulse 2 team performing inspection and maintenance on the craft in Hawaii - image courtesy of Solar Impulse
The Solar Impulse 2 team performing inspection and maintenance on the craft in Hawaii – image courtesy of Solar Impulse.

The Solar Impulse 2 will be repaired in a hanger at the Kalaeloa airport and post-maintenance testing will commence next year to test the battery and cooling systems.

“Irreversible damage to certain parts of the batteries will require repairs which will last several months. In parallel, we will be studying various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights,” the team said.

Solar Impulse has almost reached the halfway point of its unprecedented round-the-world flight, after it completed 8 legs of the journey.

“Setbacks are part of the challenges of a project which is pushing technological boundaries to the limits. We will try to complete the first ever round-the-world solar flight in 2016 and this delay will in no way influence the overall objectives of this pioneering endeavor,” the team said.

The warmer weather presented in April next year will help with the next leg of the team’s journey to the west coast of America.

A closer look at the Solar Impulse 2

The Solar Impulse 2 is a one-of-a-kind single-seater aircraft constructed of carbon fibre, weighing around the same as a mid-sized car at just 2,300kg.

The solar-powered plane’s four electric motors are powered by 17,000 solar cells built into the wings. The plane relies on the solar cells recharging lithium batteries during the day, allowing it to fly at night.

The Solar Impulse 2 features a 72-metre wingspan, greater than that of a Boeing 747-8l at 68.5-metres. All of this comes together to allow a solar-powered plan with a virtually endless range, weather permitting.