Raphaël Domjan, who sailed around the world in a solar-power boat in 2012, now has a brand new project: to send a two-seater, solar-powered plane more than 80,000 feet into the stratosphere. The self-described eco-adventurer says he has gained enough financial sponsors to proceed and complete his journey to the edge of space.
Dubbed Mission Solar Stratos, the expedition was launched in collaboration by André Schneider from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Cédric Borboën from the Lombard Odier and Cie SA private bank. Domjan, a Switzerland native, announced his plans for the feat in March – it’s estimated to cost six to eight million Swiss francs, roughly translating to six to nine million dollars.
By flying that high above the Earth the solar and hydrogen powered plane would officially set an altitude record. The flight would require the pilot and passenger to wear a pressure suit as means of dealing with temperatures as low as minus 70 degrees and the stratosphere’s thin air.
Domjan has been training for the flight by performing telemetry biomedical tests in simulated high-altitude jumps operated by Realfly, one of the project’s early sponsors.
Photo Courtesy of solarstratos.com
In addition to corporation sponsors, several aerospace veterans have joined the undertaking, including former NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchel, who was the sixth man to walk on the moon, and Miroslaw Hermaszewski, the first Polish astronaut. His team also includes Michael Lopez-Alegria, a Spanish-American astronaut and former International Space Station commander, and Géraldine Fasnacht, the Swiss daredevil snow boarder and base jumper.
German company, PC-Aero GmbH, will build a prototype of the Solar Stratus with the first test flights planned for 2016.
“The idea is to relive the dream of Icarus without burning the wings,” Domjan was quoted as saying.
Domjan is known for leading the Tûranor Planet Solar expedition, the world’s largest solar-powered boat that circumnavigated the globe in 584 days.
“It was during the Atlantic crossing on board Planet Solar that the idea came to him of fulfilling the mythical flight of Icarus and approaching space by using solar energy,” the mission’s statement reads. “An international team was formed and today the next challenge is launched. This adventure is without precedent.”
The Solar Strato’s record-breaking attempt to reach the stratosphere is scheduled for 2017.