Mission Control for the Solar Impulse 2 is open for business, ready to guide the solar plane’s first flight around the world. Located in Monaco, the Mission Control Center (MCC) serves as project nerve-center, where a team of analysts and engineers will collect satellite-transmitted flight information to calculate and adjust the plane’s flight path. The plane will take off from Abu Dhabi in early March. See it soar over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in our lead image.
“The crew here will act collectively as our guardian angel. We will be in continuous contact with them from the cockpit, and they will tell us what we need to know to make the right decisions,” Piccard said at the MCC launch. Twenty engineers and specialists, including Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, will monitor the flight on computers and video screens.
Prince Albert of Monaco, whose foundation helped finance the MCC, said in his speech at the event, “This historic circumnavigation using only solar energy will be a dream come true. The flight will demonstrate that science can change the world.”
Take a virtual tour of the MCC:
Copilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg will take turns flying the single-seat plane. The 22,000 mile journey is underpinned by dozens of new technologies born from the efforts of an army of technical partners involved since project start. The team embraced a clear project philosophy which informed all aspects of design: improve efficiency, reduce resource consumption, promote and provide cleaner, sustainable transportation solutions and expand the use of renewable energies.
Many of the discoveries resulting from Solar Impulse 2 have already found non-aeronautical applications in improved insulation for homes and home appliances, solvent-free fabric manufacture, decreased car body weights, and new storage solutions for solar-generated energy.
Slated for take off early next month, the exact date is highly dependent on weather conditions and not yet announced. The trip will span 25 flight days over a total of 5 months, landing in 12 different locations including Oman, India, China and the USA. Stopovers in Europe and North Africa are also planned, before the flight concludes in Abu Dhabi.
The emissions-free Solar Impulse 2 is not the first solar airplane, but is the most energy-efficient and the first to fly for five consecutive days and nights using only daytime-generated solar power, drawing on stored reserves for night.
The pilots point out that powerful educational and political mandates will be virtual passengers on the trip. Green Prophet previously reported that on-board cameras will enable the entire flight to be broadcast live on the Solar Impulse 2 website. An online survey will invite the world to send urgent messages to leaders and governments pressuring for sustainable policies and investment. In December, the pilots will bring the results of that survey to the 21st session of the COP climate talks in Paris.
“Many governments say we need more R&D, we need to wait, before we have renewable energies in their country. Forget that, we have today enough energy efficiency technologies to half world consumption, and renewable technologies that can provide the rest,” said Piccard at a press event during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week last January.
“We want youth, leaders, organizations and policymakers to understand that what Solar Impulse can achieve in the air, everyone can accomplish here on the ground in their everyday lives. Renewable energy can become an integral part of our lives, and together, we can help save our planet’s natural resources,” said Piccard.
Track the Solar Impulse 2 website for up-to-the-minute news on their departure flight from Abu Dhabi (link here).
Image of Solar Impulse 2 flying over the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi from Masdar/APCO Worldwide