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Solar Impulse Airplane Takes First Flight

Solar Impulse in flight

In brief: The Solar Impulse, a solar-powered aircraft built to fly around the world, took its maiden flight today for 87 minutes across the Swiss countryside.

Vehicle in the news

Make/Model: Solar Impulse
Manufacturer: Solar Impulse

The word

Solar Impulse

The aircraft lofted to 4,000 feet and flew for 87 feet entirely on power from its 12,000 solar cells. It will eventually be piloted around the world at its maximum speed of 40-45mph.

The aircraft has a wingspan similar to a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but weighs only about 3,500 pounds.

The Solar Impulse team plans more daytime sunlight test flights followed by night-time testing using stored power and airspeed gained by lowering altitude. All of this will tell the team whether the aircraft is ready to fly around the world in 2012.

And so ...

The actual globe-circling flight will take place in grueling 36-hour shifts between pilots.

Photo credits: Wired

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