Solar Impulse postpones night flight

The Swiss team behind the Solar Impulse solar-powered plane has postponed an attempt to fly through the night owing to a technical problem.

This content was published on July 1, 2010 - 08:49

Adventurer Bertrand Piccard, co-founder of Solar Impulse, says he cannot say when the next attempt will be made.

But he says the test flight has to happen before the beginning of August because after that the days will be too short to charge the plane's batteries to last through the night.

According to the organisers, the problem was with a piece of measuring equipment known as a telemetry transmitter that enables the ground team to monitor the flight in real time.

Piccard told supporters and reporters at the Payerne airfield on Thursday that it was the team's first setback.

"If this project was easy, everybody else would have already done it," he said.

He said they would have to wait for a new part from the United States.

The plane was to have taken off from Payerne in an attempt to fly for 24 hours.

The huge plane has a 63.4-metre-wingspan, the equivalent of an A340 Airbus, but weighs only 1,600kg – less than the average car. It is covered with almost 12,000 solar cells, which can generate enough energy through the day to sustain its battery-driven engines at night.

The night flight is the latest stage in the solar adventure of Borschberg and Piccard. They are then planning a longer 36-hour non-stop flight to prove that perpetual solar flight is possible.

Their long-term objective is to fly a second, lighter version around the world in 20-25 days in five stages from 2013.

swissinfo.ch with agencies

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