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Solar Impulse Takes on America

Posted on: 05/04/2013
The Solar Impulse, the first aircraft built to fly day and night without using fuel, successfully completed the first leg of its coast-to-coast flight of the United States when it took off from San Francisco on May 3 and landed in Phoenix on May 4.

Solar panels across the wings of the ultra-lightweight plane capture energy from sunlight during the day, and lithium-polymer batteries store the energy for when the sun goes down. The plane’s body is comprised of a carbon fiber material formed in a honeycomb structure. It has a wingspan equivalent to a 747 jetliner and weighs about the same as a station wagon.

The project, underwritten by a number of corporate partners, is intended to raise awareness about the potential value and applications of renewable energy. As noted on the Solar Impulse website, “Our airplane is not designed to carry passengers, but to carry a message.”

First launched in 2003, Solar Impulse completed the world’s first solar 26-hour day and night flight in 2010. In 2012, it completed its first intercontinental flight, connecting Europe to Africa. It is attempting the coast-to-coast United States flight in stages during the spring and summer of 2013. The project’s ultimate goal is to fly around the world, tentatively in 2015.

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