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Solar Impulse world tour suspended until 2016 due to battery problems

Batteries aboard solar-powered plane heated faster than expected during record-breaking flight

Solar Impulse 2 has suspended its journey around the globe due to battery problems that were discovered after its record-breaking flight across the Pacific Ocean. In a statement released today, the Solar Impulse team said that the batteries aboard the solar-powered plane overheated and sustained "irreversible damage" during its flight from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii. The plane will now remain in Hawaii for "several months" to undergo repairs, before resuming its journey in early spring 2016.

Solar Impulse took off from Abu Dhabi in March, beginning its quest to fly around the world entirely on solar energy. It completed the most challenging leg of its journey earlier this month, when pilot André Borschberg flew from Japan to Hawaii in just under five days, making it the longest-duration solo flight in history. The plane was due to fly five more legs before returning to Abu Dhabi.

A "small problem"

In its statement, Solar Impulse said the plane's batteries heated faster than expected during its ascent from Japan, due to its high climb rate and over-insulated gondolas. The team said it failed to anticipate how fast the battery would heat up in tropical climates, stressing that the problem was not the result of a technical failure. Project co-founder Bertrand Piccard, who has been sharing piloting duties with Borschberg, says the team is aiming to resume flying by April 2016.

In a video statement, Borschberg described the setback as a "small problem," saying that completing the trans-Pacific flight was most important in demonstrating the viability of solar-powered flight. "All the obstacles that we've found, that we've had to overcome, I guess it's just made us stronger," he said. "We have the energy now to continue, we have the commitment to complete this flight around the world next year, hopefully of course, successfully."