Solar Impulse sets new world records on epic Pacific crossing to Hawaii

2015-07-01 - ABB, whose innovation and technology alliance with this pioneering solar endeavor began in 2014, salutes pilot Andre Borschberg on his record-setting flight to Hawaii. About half of this pioneering five-day, five-night leg - the round-the-world mission’s most grueling segment - has been left behind in the plane’s slipstream.

Bon Voyage! Solar Impulse 2, with pilot Ande Borschberg at the helm, prepares for takeoff from Nagoya on its historic flight to Hawaii, a 5-day Pacific crossing without fossil fuel. Copyright:Solar Impulse | Revillard |
By Wednesday, Solar Impulse 2 had flown through nearly three days and nights after setting off from Nagoya, Japan, breaking the previous records for duration and distance that pilot Andre Borschberg had set in early June, when he was aloft for 44 hours, 10 minutes, and travelled 2,614.5 kilometers.

With the plane now well beyond the so-called “point of no return” toward Hawaii, crew members including fellow pilot Bertrand Piccard have grown increasingly optimistic that favorable conditions over the Pacific Ocean will contribute to its success.

Since takeoff in Nagoya, Japan, on Monday, June 29, Si2 has soared to about 30,000 feet, endured external temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius and been jostled about by turbulence. In the first two days and nights, Borschberg made do with fewer than 10 hours worth of catnaps as he worked to make sure the plane’s systems were functioning at their optimal level.

Solar Impulse pilot Andre Borschberg bids an emotional farewell to his wife before climbing aboard the plane in Nagoya, Japan Copyright:Solar Impulse | Revillard |
“I have to maximize the energy efficiency of Si2 and the plane has to give me the possibility to rebuild my energy," Borschberg told Piccard at the Mission Control Center in Monaco via the plane’s communication system. “This flight will only be a success if we really partner, the airplane and myself.”

Last year, ABB and Solar Impulse formed an innovation and technology alliance to advance a shared vision of reducing resource consumption and increasing the use of renewable energy.

ABB, the global leader in power and automation technology, has contributed three electrical engineers to the project, one of whom has accompanied the ground crew from its initial takeoff March 9 in Abu Dhabi, across the Indian subcontinent to China’s coast, and now this voyage over the wide Pacific Ocean. The plane will cross the United States before returning to Abu Dhabi.

The ABB experts – Nicolas Loretan, Tamara Tursijan and Stevan Marinkovic – have worked in different areas on the project. Tursijan helped optimize ground operations including the mobile hangar, while Marinkovic developed a charging solution to help ensure batteries are always topped off.

Meanwhile, Loretan’s job on this pioneering endeavor included rigorous testing of the plane’s components to guarantee they meet the demands of the first-ever global circumnavigation without fossil fuel.

ABB engineer Tamara Tursijan talks about her role on the mission to fly a solar-powered airplane around the world
Staff at ABB Japan, where the company has around 700 employees, were also on hand to secure the mobile hangar and provide mobile power systems after the plane landed in Nagoya.

Solar Impulse embarked on its Pacific crossing June 1 but cut the planned 8,000-kilometer leg short after unstable weather blocked its path to Hawaii. A second attempt, on June 24, had to be scrubbed at the last moment, for the same reason.

Now, after more than a day and a half in the air, crew members report Borschberg is “feeling good” and in “a good mood”, the weather front “looks less intense”, and energy – harvested from 17,248 solar cells mounted to Si2’s wings and fuselage – was “good and as planned.”

“Andre will start to climb,” according to a message from Si2’s Mission Control Center early Tuesday. “So far, so good.”

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