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Battery damage grounds Solar Impulse 2 after record-breaking flight

Solar Impulse 2 is taking a breather after its record-breaking 117-hour, 52-minute flight from Japan to Hawaii last week that crushed the record for longest solo flight. The solar-powered aircraft sustained major damage to its batteries during the latest leg of its round-the-world voyage, according to a press release, and it will be two to three weeks before the aircraft flies again.

Crews monitoring the aircraft during its flight from Nagoya to Hawaii noticed the overheating batteries during the plane's first ascent of the five-day journey. Unfortunately, the team was unable to reduce temperatures due to the cyclic nature of Solar Impulse's flights. Every day, the aircraft ascends to 28,000 feet and gathers energy before gliding back down toward Earth at night. The team believes that the overheating was due to excess insulation in the battery compartment.

"Damage to certain parts of the batteries is irreversible."

In a press release, the team says that "the damage to certain parts of the batteries is irreversible," adding that they'll need to obtain new parts and perform repairs that "will take several weeks to work through." Thankfully, alongside the repairs, engineers will be looking at how to better design the battery compartment to prevent a similar issue from occurring in the future during long flights.

Solar Impulse co-founder and CEO André Borschberg piloted the plane on the record-breaking leg, but he won't be flying once the aircraft is back in action. His partner in this journey, Bertrand Piccard, will take the reins for the next flight, which is set to land in Phoenix, Arizona. After that, Solar Impulse will take a couple more stops in the US before hopping across the Atlantic and finally returning to Abu Dhabi, where this round-the-world trip first started in March.