A solar-powered aircraft designed to reach the stratosphere was unveiled in Payerne, Switzerland, on December 7.

The two-seater SolarStratos is 8.5 meters long, has a wingspan of 24.8 meters, weighs 450 kg, and is covered with 22 sq m of solar cells. Solar energy harvested by the cells is stored in a 20 kWh lithium-ion battery.

SolarStratos is powered by 22 sq m of solar cells.SolarStratos is powered by 22 sq m of solar cells.The project was launched by Raphael Domjan, creator of PlanetSolar, the first solar-powered boat to circumnavigate the globe. Domjan and a co-pilot will undertake the first stratospheric flights in 2018, made up of a two-hour ascent into space, 15 minutes beyond the stratosphere, and a three-hour descent.

“Our goal is to demonstrate that current technology offers us the possibility to achieve above and beyond what fossil fuels offer,” says Domjan. “Electric and solar vehicles are among the major challenges of the 21st century. Our aircraft can fly at an altitude of 25,000 meters and this opens the door to the possibility of electric and solar commercial aviation, close to space.”

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