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Damaged batteries ground Solar Impulse 2 in Hawaii until 2016

2015-07-16 09:10:54

A dream of circumnavigating the globe in a solar-powered aircraft has been put on hold after Solar Impulse 2 suffered battery damage during its record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean.

Solar Impulse 2 will be grounded in Hawaii until spring next year after suffering ‘severe battery damage’. 
 
It was hoped the repairs could be completed by next month, but the plane’s engineers say it is now possible that the battery packs need to be completely replaced.

The round-the-world flight will not resume until spring next year while battery repairs are carried out on the aircraft. The batteries of the plane which set off from Abu Dhabi in March, were damaged during a five-day, five-night flight from Japan to Hawaii this month.

“Irreversible damage will require repairs that will take several months,” said a spokesman for the mission.

The team said last week that battery temperatures in the craft had surged during the flight from Japan to Hawaii, and there was no way to cool the battery packs once the aircraft was in flight.

“Overall, the aeroplane performed very well during the flight,” the team said on its website, adding that the battery damage was not a technical failure but an “evaluation error” for the cooling design specifications of the batteries.

“In parallel, the Solar Impulse engineering team will be studying various options for better cooling and heating processes for very long flights.”

It was hoped that the repairs could be completed by next month, but the plane’s engineers say it is now possible that the battery packs need to be completely replaced.

The project’s co-founder and pilot, Andre Borschberg, said the team said that starting again next year would give them more time for development.

“Since we departed from Abu Dhabi, we encountered a lot of obstacles, which we managed to overcome, gaining experience,” Mr Borschberg said.

“Round-The-World will continue in 2016,” he said on Twitter. “We will never give up.”

The mission’s other pilot, Bertrand Piccard, said that exploration and adventure was not only about success, but about coping with doubts and difficulties in a constructive way.

“If one cannot cope with disappointment and frustration, one should not aim for adventure,” Mr Piccard said.

Solar Impulse 2 set a world record for the longest solo flight when it logged 117 hours and 52 minutes upon touchdown in Oahu on July 3. The aeroplane will remain in its hangar at Kalaeloa airport in Hawaii.

The mission is expected to resume in early April, flying from Hawaii to the West Coast of the United States. From there it will fly to New York before crossing the Atlantic Ocean to Europe, and completing its journey in Abu Dhabi, where it started out.