Taking Solar to New Heights
You climb inside the cockpit. You strap in and take off.
You soar through the clouds in silence – no roaring engine, no trail of smoke. Now you see entire mountain ranges. Vast oceans of blue. The gentle curve of the earth.
Higher still you fly, until you arrive at your destination: the very edge of space.
Soon, SunPower solar cells will make this bold vision a reality.
This journey is into the stratosphere. And into the future.
An Extraordinary Vision
Meet award-winning solar pioneer Raphaël Domjan, the founder of PlanetSolar, the world’s first and largest solar-powered boat to sail around the world purely on solar energy, in 2012. Partners for over ten years, SunPower and Domjan share the same ultimate vision: making the extraordinary possible with solar power.
Raphaël Domjan undergoes decompression tests with his technical and medical team in an altitude chamber. Dressed in his Sokol-KV2 solar space suit, the test simulated 15,000 metres and minus 53 degrees Celsius.
Within the next year, SolarStratos aims to reach the edge of space in a plane powered only by the sun. Flying about two times higher than planes that use conventional fuels, this manned solar airplane heralds the future of commercial travel. Once the inaugural flight is completed, Domjan and his team plan to offer commercial flights into the stratosphere. At its core, SolarStratos aims to show the capacity and capability of renewable energy.
Soaring to the edge of space demands the most advanced solar cells available, so the record-breaking performance and durability of Maxeon® technology from SunPower was the clear choice for SolarStratos.
A Powerful Journey
The best solar technology delivers vast power in a limited space, whether it’s on a rooftop or a solar plane. Take SolarStratos: with just 22 square metres of useable surface, Domjan must power the safe ascent and descent of his 450 kg plane, and stay aloft for up to 12 hours without battery support, if needed. As the longstanding leader in solar efficiency, Maxeon technology is the perfect fit – no other solar in the residential or commercial market generates as much power in a given space.1 Based on datasheet review of websites of top 20 manufacturers per IHS, as of May, 2019.
Plus, Maxeon holds its power over time. While conventional solar cells gradually lose power, Maxeon technology generates up to 35% more energy from the same space when compared to conventional solar over 25 years.2 SunPower 400 W, 22.6% efficient, compared to a Conventional Panel on same-sized arrays (310 W mono PERC, 19% efficient, approx. 1.64 m²)
At more than 25,000 metres, the curvature of the planet will be visible to Domjan as he pilots the plane.
Durability is also key. The stratosphere is an unforgiving environment, with freezing temperatures nearing -60 degrees Celsius, battering winds, unfiltered ultraviolet rays, and more. SunPower Maxeon® technology is designed and tested to perform reliably in these harsh environments. Maxeon solar cells eliminate 86% of the reasons why corrosion and breakage lead to failure of conventional cells. And that gives Domjan ultimate peace-of-mind in the sky.
When failure is not an option, the most adventurous and demanding solar pioneers choose SunPower technology to help them set world records. The cells powering Domjan to 25,000 metres are identical to those found in SunPower high-efficiency solar panels on homes and businesses back here on Earth. As Domjan soars toward the outer limits of Earth’s atmosphere, SunPower’s team is proud to support his mission with technology that matches his relentless spirit.
SolarStratos: Quick facts
- Mission: To penetrate the stratosphere in a solar-powered plane.
- Energy: Self-generate solar energy to power the plane for over 12 hours
- Length: 8.5 metres
- Wingspan: 24.8 metres – about 81 feet, or the length of two standard city buses
- Weight: 450 kilograms – about as heavy as a grand piano; to make SolarStratos its lightest, the cabin will not be pressurized, requiring pilots to wear astronaut suits that are pressurized by solar energy
- Engine: 32-kilowatt electrical engine, about one-third the size of what would power an electric vehicle
- Energy: 22 square metres of SunPower Maxeon® solar cells, each reaching 22-24% efficiency
- Batteries: One 20-kilowatt lithium ion battery