Solar-powered plane grounded until 2016

The Solar Impulse 2 round-the-world flight has been halted following serious damage to the plane's batteries during the Pacific leg of its journey.

Following Solar Impulse 2’s record breaking flight lasting more than five days, engineers found the solar plane’s batteries were irreversibly damaged and suspended the next leg of the flight until spring 2016.

The flight broke world records for the longest distance and duration flown in solar aviation, with the plane piloted by Solar Impulse CEO and co-founder André Borschberg.

During the 117-hour flight from Nagoya in Japan to Hawaii, the high climb rate on the first day overheated the solar plane’s batteries, with no way to decrease the temperature for the duration of the flight.

The Solar Impulse team believes it had not anticipated the temperature change in the tropical flying conditions.

“What’s very important is that we could do the most difficult leg,” said Borschberg, “Flying five days and five nights over the ocean, demonstrating that the airplane can do it.”

The solar plane will now be hosted in a hangar overwinter by the University of Hawaii. The flight team will check new heating and battery cooling systems before resuming the round-the-world flight in early April 2016.

Solar Impulse added: “Setbacks are part of the challenges of a project which is pushing technological boundaries to the limits.”

The Solar Impulse 2’s journey has lasted since March, flying day and night using more than 17,000 solar cells installed on its wings.

The project aims to promote the #FutureisClean initiative to encourage clean energy and renewable technologies around the world.

Matt Field

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