The Solar Impulse 2 trucked so hard on its record breaking, nonstop flight from Japan to Hawaii, it seems to have overheated its lithium ion batteries. The plane is now grounded for the next 2 to 3 weeks while engineers work to fix the damage and determine whether new parts will be needed to get the Impulse airborne once more.
The delay makes it less certain that the Solar Impulse 2 will be able to complete its round-the-world journey, which begins and ends in Abu Dhabi, in 2015. The vehicle’s slow speed, light weight, and 72 meter wingspan mean that it can only fly under very specific meteorological conditions. If Solar Impulse can’t make it to the East Coast by August, meteorologists believe its windows of opportunity will become few and far between this year.
Whether or not the Impulse completes its global tour as planned, it’s already smashed aviation records. Earlier this month, pilot Andre Borschberg flew nearly 4,500 miles in 118 hours, using nothing but the power of the sun. Pilot Bertrand Piccard is due to take over for the next leg of the mission, from Kalaeloa, Hawaii to Phoenix, Arizona. We should know within the next few days whether the Impulse will be able to continue on schedule. Fingers crossed!
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Images via Solar Impulse