Inventors working to take a solar-powered plane to the edge of space have performed the first jump and free fall from an electric aircraft.
The Swiss SolarStratos team’s experimental two-seater plane took off from an airfield in western Switzerland with two people on board early Tuesday and climbed to 1520m before its founder, Raphaël Domjan, jumped out of the aircraft.
SolarStratos reported that Mr Domjan remained in free fall for several hundred metres, reaching speeds of over 150kmh before releasing his parachute and landing safely near the project base in Payerne, Switzerland.
The team quoted Mr Domjan saying the stunt was part of the goal of demonstrating that activities such as skydiving can be carried out without producing planet-warming greenhouse gases.
“Today there were many firsts but the most important is (this is) the first time ever that someone jumped from an electric aircraft. And this is something that is changing the future for this sport for skydivers,” said Mr Domjan, the instigator of the SolarStratos project and who co-piloted the plane.
“It was the first time we did a solar skydive, I climbed with the energy coming from the solar cells* of the plane,” he said.
Emissions* from kerosene-fuelled planes currently account for about 2 per cent of the man-made carbon emissions.
“I hope that this will continue to make the young people of tomorrow dream, thanks to aircraft that are more respectful of our planet and our climate,” he added.
The SolarStratos team follows the pioneering work of Switzerland’s Solar Impulse mission, which completed the first circumnavigation* of the globe with a solar-powered plane in 2016.
By 2022, the team hopes to fly the single-propeller aircraft — powered exclusively by solar energy from its 22 sqm of solar panels — into the stratosphere* with an altitude of 20,000m.
HOW HIGH IS THAT?
Most big commercial planes cruise at an altitude of 10,000m, or 10km.
Small planes on sightseeing or pleasure flights usually fly at an altitude of 150-300m.
Wedge-tailed eagles soar at altitudes of up to 2000m (2km).
The International Space Station orbits at an average of 400km (400,000m) above Earth.
Where outer space begins is called the Kármán line. Different organisations have different definitions of where this is, but it is generally about 100km above the surface of the Earth.
- cells: small parts that make up a complete unit
- emissions: gases or other substances given off
- circumnavigation: go all the way around
- stratosphere: the middle layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, between the troposphere (lowest) and the mesosphere (highest)
- In which country did this happen?
- How did the plane get its power?
- What is the Kármán line?
- How high up is the International Space Station
- What is the stratosphere?
LISTEN TO THIS STORY
1. Inspire Yourself
How do you think it would feel to free fall at speeds of 150kmh like Raphael Domjan? Write down as many descriptive words for this that you can think of. Use your words to inspire you to create a drawing or artwork.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Critical and Creative Thinking
The planes that skydivers usually jump out of use fossil fuels. Can you think of another activity that relies on fossil fuels. How would you change this activity to make it more environmentally friendly? Write a detailed description of your changes. Include diagrams and designs.
Time: allow at least 30 minutes to complete this activity.
Curriculum Links: English, Science, Design and Technologies
Pick a paragraph from the article, or about 3 sentences together if that’s easier, and rewrite it without the punctuation. At the bottom of the page write a list of all the punctuation you stole and in the order you stole it. For example; C , . C .
Then swap your book with another person and see if they can work out where the punctuation needs to go back to.
Make it easier: Underline where you stole the punctuation from but don’t put the list at the bottom in order.
Make it harder:
Don’t put the punctuation in order at the bottom.
Underline where you took the punctuation from, but don’t tell them what pieces you took.
Just tell them how many pieces you took, but not what they are.
Don’t give them any clues!
HAVE YOUR SAY: How would you feel about parachuting from this plane?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.