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Solar Impulse Airplane (HB-SIA) to Fly Across U.S. in Spring

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solar impulseSwiss company Solar Impulse has demonstrated that a solar-powered airplane can fly day and night without any other fuel than sunlight.

Solar Impulse flew its solar-powered airplane, with a wingspan of 208 feet, aboard a Boeing 747 after the team spent February disassembling the airplane and preparing it for travel.

Before beginning test flights in the spring, the Solar Impulse team will spend several weeks in California assembling the prototype airplane at Moffett Field. Once completed, the company plans to fly the HB-SIA prototype across the southern part of the US on a solar-powered flight to Washington D.C. After a quick stop, the plane will continue to New York.

Four electric motors producing 10 horsepower give the HB-SIA its energy to fly cross-country, although experts believe it is slightly underpowered. The HB-SIA’s top cruise speed is less than 50 mph.

While not particularly speedy, the photovoltaic panels on the HB-SIA were built by the transcontinental solar flight record holder Eric Raymond.

Solar Impulse has been flying the HB-SIA for three years and even had a flight lasting longer than 26 hours. The pilot was able to gain altitude and charge batteries during the day while still flying and slowly descending during the evening.

Solar Impulse’s ultimate goal is to fly around the globe in 2015. The team expects to begin construction on the larger plan this fall. Currently, a team in California and engineers in Switzerland are completing the design on the airplane.

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