Sunday, May 27, 2012

Short Sharp Science: Solar Impulse plane prepares to go intercontinental

Solar Impulse plane prepares to go intercontinental

Caroline Morley, online picture researcher
(Image: Solar Impulse/Jean Revillard)
Solar-powered plane Solar Impulse is well into its first intercontinental journey from Payerne in Switzerland to Rabat in Morocco.
Solar Impulse took just over 17 hours to fly first to Madrid-Barajas airport, seen here landing at 1.28 am local time today. Following some days' technical adjustments and a change of pilots, the proptype plane is due to continue with its second leg to the 16-megawatt Moroccan Agency for Solar Energy plant near Rabat. The 800-kilometre journey is expected to take 20 hours. Slow going, perhaps, but pretty impressive for a plane that uses no fuel but sunlight.
With wings spanning 63.4 metres and covered in 12,000 solar cells, Solar Impulse can carry just one person - the pilot - but last year it completed a 26-hour flight.
The next challenge for the Solar Impulse team is a circumnavigational flight scheduled for 2014. This test flight meant the pilot was able to practise landing at an international airport as well as preparing the the team to deal with air traffic patterns.

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