The Solar Impulse plane sets takes off from San Francisco's Moffett Airfield during the early morning hours of May 3. “The solar-powered plane is set to land in Phoenix very early Saturday
and later make stops in four other cities,” NatGeo’s Andries says.
Photo Credit: Jean Revillard, Solar Impulse
An article, by Kate Andries, in National Geographic says that an airplane named Solar Impulse is attempting to fly across the United States without using any fuel; the airplane, which relies solely on solar power, took off from San Francisco, California, on Friday, May 3 and is expected to land in Phoenix, Arizona, a week later. This is the first leg of a five-leg trip, that will take almost two months to complete, with a planned landing in New York City by early July.
Shepherding the cross-country flight are Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, Swiss pilots with extensive backgrounds in aviation. Piccard was the first pilot to complete a nonstop balloon flight around the globe, Borschberg trained as a fighter pilot in the Swiss air force. The duo, who designed the aircraft and will take turns piloting the solar plane across the country, are just warming up for a round-the-world solar flight they aim to make in 2015.
The Impulse, which is completely solar-powered, requires no fossil fuels and emits no pollution. Instead, the aircraft is covered in almost 12,000 silicon solar cells that drive four electric motors and can turn the plane's propellers day and night with special batteries that store power. Weighing in at approximately 880 pounds (400 kilograms), the batteries account for more than 25 percent of the plane's total mass, something that required major weight reductions in the rest of the body.
The entire journey will take more than a month and is made up of four legs. In mid-May, Solar Impulse will depart from Phoenix and land in Dallas, Texas. The end of May will see Solar Impulse will head to St. Louis, Missouri. On the fourth and fifth legs, the solar aircraft will fly from St. Louis to Washington, D.C., and then to New York City in late June or July.It is obvious that this aircraft is not built for speed, flying at 40 knots (46 miles per hour) at a cruising altitude of 21,000 feet (6,400 meters), taking almost two months to fly cross country. It is built as basically a proof of concept, to see if a solar-powered aircraft can complete such a long journey.
If so, it will become the first of many such flights, each one pushing the boundaries of applied science and engineering, until it might be possible to complete the cross-country journey in one flight. That would be a great achievement, as would this one would be. The Swiss team is planning a round-the-world flight for 2015. We wish the Swiss pilots and the team on the ground much success in their journey across the U.S.
You can read the rest of the article at [NatGeo]