Solar aircraft takes international trip, preps for round-the-world flight

Solar Impulse uses 12,000 solar cells for clean powered flight

The single seat, solar powered aircraft known as Solar Impulse will today land in Belgium after taking 12 hours to fly 480 kilometers (300 miles)  from western Switzerland to Brussels airport. 

This first international flight is but one step toward possible transamerican, transatlantic and round-the-world flights -- in stages -- in 2013 and 2014 using a slightly larger aircraft.

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Solar Impulse HB-SIA has a wingspan of over 200 feet - about as large as an Airbus commercial jetliner - weighs about 4,000 lbs  and relies on 12,000 solar cells for clean powered flight.

The prototype aircraft made history in July 2010 as the first manned plane to fly for 26 hours on the sun's energy.  On its current flight it will fly at about 3,800 meters or about  12,467 ft. It has gone as high as about 31,000 ft.

The next version of the plane, the HB-SIB is planned for completion in 2011, with a pressurized cockpit and advanced avionics to allow for transcontinental and trans-oceanic flights, according to the Swiss company building the planes. The wingspan of HB-SIB will be 80.0 m (262.5 ft), slightly wider than the 79.75 m (261.6 ft) wingspan of an Airbus A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world.

solar impulse

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