US Secretary of Energy
The United States Secretary of Energy visits Solar Impulse and André and Bertrand receive an award from the solar industry.
Solar Impulse has shared our pioneering spirit and clean technology message with many government officials as we have traveled across the U.S.. Now in the Washington, D.C. ...
The United States Secretary of Energy visits Solar Impulse and André and Bertrand receive an award from the solar industry.
Solar Impulse has shared our pioneering spirit and clean technology message with many government officials as we have traveled across the U.S.. Now in the Washington, D.C. area, we were pleased to have the United States Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz join us yesterday.
The Secretary noted that Solar Impulse aligns with 4 different Department of Energy priorities, including solar, energy storage, energy efficiency, and advanced materials: “This wonderful achievement, this engineering marvel, touches 4 really critical areas for the Department of Energy.”
At the event, Bertrand Piccard issued a challenge to governments around the world. He explained that while the clean tech industry has created solutions that are clean, affordable and create jobs, people often don’t switch out of habit. Therefore, governments must play a major role in deploying clean technologies.
André Borschberg pointed out that reducing energy use to the maximum degree is the core challenge for the project. From the very beginning, he said, success required new technologies and solutions, developed with partners. These solutions, he explained, can also be used in transportation, in buildings, and in appliances.
During the event, the pilots and co-founders received the 2013 Solar Innovators of the year award from Rhone Resch, the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association.
On the picture: United States Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz
In the Company of History
The Solar Impulse team always enjoys presenting our airplane wherever we land, and our stop in the Washington D.C. area is ...
The Solar Impulse team always enjoys presenting our airplane wherever we land, and our stop in the Washington D.C. area is no exception. Today was our public day here and the thousands of excited visitors that came to visit energized everyone on the team.
This particular public day is special because we are hosted on site at the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The Center is one of the world’s premier museums for aviation and space history, engaging the public while providing inspiration for conquering new frontiers.
Next door to our display tent we can see the massive hangars of the Center, which house hundreds of planes and space vehicles, including the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest jet in the world, the prototype of the Boeing 707, a Concorde supersonic airliner, and the retired space shuttle Discovery.
As we answered questions and told the Solar Impulse story for today’s visitors, we couldn’t help but think about the pioneering efforts memorialized in the museum next door. Did the designers of the Concorde know that their plane would one day be museum worthy for its groundbreaking achievements? Did the architects of the Space Shuttle imagine that they would be the public face of human space travel for 30 years? It’s humbling to think about our own work with these incredible vehicles so close nearby.
One thing we know is that Solar Impulse and these giants of history share a common pioneering spirit – a commitment to push the very limits of what is possible to accomplish amazing things. And we know that the next pages of history are as yet unwritten – and we can make clean technology a big part of the next chapter. Who knows --maybe one day we’ll even be able to see Solar Impulse displayed in a museum as an important step in achieving a clean technology world!
Humor makes it happen
Bertrand gracefully touched down on runway 19L at Dulles International Airport at 00:15 AM EDT (UTC-4), Sunday June 16th. Bertrand had a chance to get some incredible shots above the Appalachians and the solar airplane was in great shape despite the quasi-shower it experienced this morning before take-off. ...
Bertrand gracefully touched down on runway 19L at Dulles International Airport at 00:15 AM EDT (UTC-4), Sunday June 16th. Bertrand had a chance to get some incredible shots above the Appalachians and the solar airplane was in great shape despite the quasi-shower it experienced this morning before take-off. The fog that lingered over Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport caused condensation to form on the wings which the Ground Crew had to meticulously wipe off with cloths and pipettes. But at least Solar Impulse is now shiny and clean, ready to show off to the public!
Bertrand and André are thrilled to be in Washington D.C., the nation’s capital but also the first stop on the East Coast before going to New York City. It was also an emotional flight on a more personal level: it was Bertrand’s last mission flight in the cockpit of HB-SIA. What a wonderful way to say goodbye to the prototype that has exceeded all expectations! André will be taking the controls for the final leg of the Across America adventure, connecting Washington D.C. to New York City.
The entire Solar Impulse team worked really hard to make this mission a success as well as to turn it into an unforgettable and symbolic final adventure of the solar airplane, HB-SIA, that’s so dear to all of us. The adrenaline and excitement are palpable as the mission is slowly coming to end and none of this would have been possible without the team. In fact, the key to success is a four letter word: T-E-A-M. From the Engineers, to the Meteorologists; from the Marketing and Communications team to the Logistics team; from the Press to Multimedia to the Ground Crew; from the ATC to the Analysts; it was all made possible thanks to professionalism, passion and especially humor! Between the intense moments of concentration, there is always room for cracking a joke, an essential ingredient to keep us all going.
Today, Sunday June 16th, an Open House will be organized from 1PM to 5PM. Everybody is welcome as the entrance is free while parking is $15 before 4PM. Just go to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center; for directions click here.
Flying science exhibit
As Bertrand begins his slow descent toward Washington D.C. one might wonder how it feels to be up there. Sure, he has some incredible views of the Appalachians and both he and André are always welcomed by blue skies and sunshine (I guess that’s the minimum for a solar airplane); but both pilots fly in physically challenging ...
As Bertrand begins his slow descent toward Washington D.C. one might wonder how it feels to be up there. Sure, he has some incredible views of the Appalachians and both he and André are always welcomed by blue skies and sunshine (I guess that’s the minimum for a solar airplane); but both pilots fly in physically challenging conditions. The cockpit is not pressurized, meaning that from 12’000 ft. they are required to wear an oxygen mask. Also given the high altitude, it can either get really hot at midday or really cold early morning or late evening. Their pilot suite is especially designed to balance their body temperature, but it’s not enough.
The cockpit of the solar airplane is insulated with a special high-performance polyurethane rigid foam. This is an innovative technology developed by Solar Impulse’s Official Partner, Bayer MaterialScience especially for the project’s extraordinary needs. Thirty Bayer MaterialScience researchers are engaged in the project, working in Germany to develop special materials for this unique airplane. The insulating foam has to withstand temperature fluctuations between – 58°F and +122°F (-50°C and +50°C).
Temperature fluctuations are not only a problem for the pilot but also for the batteries. There are four lithium-polymer batteries on the plane and each battery is made of seven cells. These cells are like human cells: they don’t like radical changes in temperature. Cold climates slow them down and hot ones can be dangerous. Bayer MaterialScience’s foam is used on each of the four motor gondolas both to guarantee battery efficiency and keep the plane safe.
Also, the pilots fly following visual flight rules (VFR), instead of instrument flight rules (IFR) which means that visibility from the cockpit is essential. The cabin window is made out of high-performance polycarbonate films that give high visibility and insulation properties thanks to the cushion of air between two polycarbonate films.
What is best about these technological developments is that they are slowly being adapted to real-world applications. For example, the polyurethane foam is particularly useful for energy efficiency purposes in new buildings, decreasing energy consumption by over 90%. It’s also ideal for refrigerator manufacturers thanks to the foam’s light weight and high insulation properties. The polycarbonate film can be used in combination with solar cells or even in the transportation industry to reduce vehicle mass.
What we see above our heads is therefore not a simple solar airplane, but the result of in-depth scientific research, technological innovation and a strive for a cleaner future. As Bayer MaterialScience likes to say, “If a new material passes the “Solar Impulse test”, then it’s definitely transferable to other industries”.
Thank you FAA for making it happen!
Making sure the slow and ultra-light plane doesn’t interfere with traffic in America’s skies is no easy task and requires serious planning long before a flight. Today’s flight from Cincinnati to Washington D.C. - as well as all other flights since the kickoff of Across America mission - was made possible thanks ...
Making sure the slow and ultra-light plane doesn’t interfere with traffic in America’s skies is no easy task and requires serious planning long before a flight. Today’s flight from Cincinnati to Washington D.C. - as well as all other flights since the kickoff of Across America mission - was made possible thanks to the FAA, America’s Federal Aviation Administration, that has demonstrated great flexibility and support.
Before transporting the solar airplane to the United States, Solar Impulse contacted the FAA in Washington where it was assigned a main contact. He then provided a point of contact (POC) for each Air Traffic Control (ATC) Unit along the mission’s scheduled itinerary. For the last leg from Washington Dulles to New York JFK Solar Impulse has been put in contact with a POC in the Eastern Service Center. Every leg of the mission has 3-5 POCs: 1 for the departure city, 1-3 along the way (called Air Route Traffic Control Centers, ARTCCs) and 1 at the final destination.
This is when the real flight preparations start. All the POCs receive information packages about the technical specificities of the solar airplane, air traffic needs (such as the distance other aircraft maintain from Solar Impulse) and the possible implications its presence could have on air traffic. This process takes time as the POCs need to familiarize with the unique needs of this extraordinary airplane.
Once the POCs are aware of Solar Impulse’s needs, the ATC team submits a flight route, from departure to landing, including the planned holding areas along the way; Solar Impulse flight engineers prepare the approaches and runway traffic patterns before finally submitting everything to the POCs. Negotiations are carried out to the smallest detail including flight altitude, holding areas, landing time and so forth - a process that can take a few weeks and is often characterized by last minute changes requiring subsequent negotiations. Once the POCs and Solar Impulse have found the best flight plan, Solar Impulse prepares a flight summary and submits it to the POCs.
A good relationship between the POCs and the ATC team is key to a smooth negotiation process. Without the FAA’s enthusiasm, flexibility and compliance (even during last minute changes due to the nature of the project) the 2013 Across America mission would have been that much harder.
Capitol Hill here we come!
The departure was delayed this morning at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport because of fog patches that were lingering over the airport. This is not uncommon as the airport is located in a shallow valley next to the Miami River. Solar Impulse, piloted by Bertrand, lifted itself from the runway at 10:11 AM EDT (UTC-4). ...
The departure was delayed this morning at Cincinnati Municipal Lunken Airport because of fog patches that were lingering over the airport. This is not uncommon as the airport is located in a shallow valley next to the Miami River. Solar Impulse, piloted by Bertrand, lifted itself from the runway at 10:11 AM EDT (UTC-4). The first segment of this fourth leg of the coast-to-coast journey was piloted by André.
Bertrand and the solar airplane might have been anxious to take-off for the new adventure, but the delayed departure is actually a good thing for Solar Impulse Air Traffic Controllers (ATC). Today’s final destination, Washington Dulles, is a large international airport with heavy air traffic and heightened security. The ATC at Dulles favor the latest possible arrival of the solar airplane. Consequently, this morning’s delay will result in a shorter flight (time wise) for Bertrand and happy ATC. The estimated time of landing is still expected after midnight EDT (UTC-4).
The mobile hangar wasn’t deployed during this short 11-hour pit stop - an unprecedented tactic in the history of the project - because it would have required too much time to set it up and take it back down. For the first time, the solar airplane was able to enjoy a starry night under the watchful eyes of its bodyguard, the Ground Crew.
This team’s role shifted overnight. They went from airplane security to wing cleaners - the condensation caused by the fog had to be meticulously wiped off to remove dust particles and to dry the solar panels - before taking on their usual role of those in charge if the solar plane’s movements on the ground. The pit stop was certainly an action-packed training exercise for the guardians of the solar plane. I’m certain they're looking forward to enjoying some of the nation’s capital’s sites and recharging their batteries before the final leg of the Across America mission: Washington D.C. to New York City.