Solar Impulse Photos & Images

By Kate

Hi everyone,

As I promised on Friday, here are some photos Virginie took (merci!) from her iPhone at the Solar Impulse Unveiling. I’ve also included some Solar Impulse CATIA images.

If you have any Solar Impulse images to share, feel free to upload them in the comments section.



The room was packed for the unveiling!
The room was packed for the unveiling!

‘Save Our Planet’ starring Solar Impulse

By Kate

It’s a bird . . . it’s a plant . . . it’s a car . . . no, it’s a plane!

Actually it’s like the Superman of planes, ready to save our daily planet.

Solar Impulse, you know it?

Solar Impulse is a solar airplane, sporting 12,000 photovoltaic cells on its wings, which, like a plant, soaks up energy from the sun for power, but the power juices the four electric motors.

It’s like a giant bird, with a wingspan of an Airbus A340 (63 meters), but weighing only as much as a car, so light enough to surf on wind currents for miles and miles.

What a plane!

Today near Zurich Solar Impulse was unveiled to the public for the first time. Six years of hard work by 70 people, creating a true aerospace innovation, and just in time. We desperately need viable eco transportation solutions given the state of our planet.

According to the official Solar Impulse website, here’s the challenge:

In a world depending on fossil energies, the Solar Impulse project is a paradox, almost a provocation: it aims to have an airplane take off and fly autonomously, day and night, propelled uniquely by solar energy, right round the world without fuel or pollution. An unachievable goal without pushing back the current technological limits in all fields…

I just got off the phone with our PR Manager Virginie who was lucky enough to attend the unveiling. Her impressions:

Today marked a page in history. When everyone saw the aircraft, it was a WOW moment. The plane doesn’t look like any plane you can imagine. It’s very long, and very thin.

Virginie was impressed by the project’s “around the world” ambition, because:

There will only be one pilot in the plane at a time. And each pilot will take a shift of five days, during which he will fly NON-STOP. No sleep, just meditation and micro siestas.

That cockpit better be pretty darn comfortable! Well, not too comfy- don’t want any accidental dozes . . .

Did you know the engineers used Dassault Systèmes’ CATIA and ENOVIA Smarteam to design Solar Impulse? According to the press release:

Because Solar Impulse is a new and complex aerospace invention, it was critical for engineers to be able to test a wide range of design configurations, including various combinations of solar panels and lightweight composites structures. For example, Solar Impulse engineers used CATIA to define the best allocation of solar cells to comply with the energy specifications. The engineers also used CATIA for ergonomics analysis to optimize the aircraft pilot’s comfort in various positions.

Virginie told me that first flight tests will begin this fall, and that a second Solar Impulse will be built.

I should have photos taken at the event to publish in time for Monday, so stay tuned . . .

Meanwhile, enjoy this Solar Impulse Unveiling video:

YouTube Preview Image

And if you were there for the unveiling, please share your impressions and any photos you took in the comments section! (I’ll try not to be jealous ;-) )

You can also see what people are saying about #solarimpulse on Twitter.



Satellite Shakes

By Kate
photo by Autumn Snake

photo by Autumn Snake

Imagine a fragile insect in its cocoon . . . attached to a rocket ship. The rocket ignites and thrusts its way to the outer hemispheres. Will the insect withstand the violent vibrations of its voyage and remain fully intact, succeeding to unfold its wings and fly upon arrival?

Satellites are like fragile insects catapulted into space. Yet each one costs over one million dollars to make.


You better not mess up when you design your satellite, and you better make sure it’s able to function when it gets to its work-space.

Who knew that as I was nibbling on my parmesan lollypop at Dassault Systèmes’ Partner Summit an hour ago I’d stumble into this sort of conversation?

Actually the satellite example is accessory, because what I was really talking about with Jan and Nick from LMS is virtual labs and realistic simulation.

But before you read further, I thought you’d like to watch a real video about satellite launching to get in the mood:

YouTube Preview Image

We talk a lot about real and immersive virtuality, virtual labs, etc. And sometimes I hear people pondering the day when we can eliminate physical tests altogether.

But Jan and Nick pointed out are few things I think are pretty smart:

  1. When it comes to true innovations, things that have never been invented before, you can’t test them virtually until you’ve physically tested them. How can you integrate the physics of your invention if you’re not sure what they are? We don’t know the alpha and omega to Physics after all.
  2. Virtual testing is raising the bar for physical testing and shaping real-life testing as a whole.

Back to our fragile satellite and violently vibrating rocket example. Jan and Nick used the satellite shake test as an example to illustrate point number two.

Now you’ve got this real satellite, one that’s cost you over a million dollars to make, and you’ve got to shake it to death, so to speak. What if you could “shake it to death” without damaging or killing it?

Ah ha!

To accomplish this, you must carefully engineer your shake test. And the way to do this is to simulate your shake test with realistic simulation. The simulated shake test will help you better define and test the real thing, figure out the safest spots to place test instruments so they won’t damage the satellite during the test action, etc.

And, you can also imagine that with the knowledge gained from the virtual shake test, if done early enough, you could go back to the virtual drawing board and tweak the actual satellite design to give it a better chance of catapultion survival. (I occasionally make up words; hey, language evolves.)

So folks, this is what has jazzed me the most about the Partner Summit so far. Conversations about cool stuff with interesting people. It’s all about people.



P.S. Nick kindly gave me this avi of his technology in-action during a simulation satellite shake test.

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