June 20, 2012
Solar Impulse Re-Scheduled For June 21 Liftoff To Ouarzazate
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com
A week after its failed attempt to fly from Rabat-Sale International Airport to Ouarzazate, Morocco, the Solar Impulse aircraft will make another attempt Thursday June 21 to complete the 16-hour flight, officials said today.
The ultra-lightweight solar-powered plane first attempted to make the flight last Wednesday, June 13, but was forced to turn back midway through the journey due to high winds and unbearable turbulence. Upon safely landing back in Rabat, the team, consisting of pilot Andre Borschberg and project manager Bertrand Piccard, checked the aircraft and said they would reassess the mission to Ouarzazate.
The team is still considering two itineraries; the first would follow the same route as the first attempt, flying in the direction of Casablanca by quickly ascending to high altitude, avoiding thermal currents. It will then go in the direction of Marrakesh at an altitude of 28,000 feet before beginning the slow descent into Ouarzazate International Airport sometime after midnight on June 22.
The second itinerary would take the plane along the coastline at low altitude (3,300 feet) in order to fly below the high winds until it reaches Essaouira, where Piccard will then fly inland before making his descent at Ouarzazate.
Piccard said this flight gives the team an excellent occasion to bring the Solar Impulse project to the next level by pushing the limits of the aircraft and the team. The difficult meteorological conditions will test the aircraft´s aeronautical limits while preparing the team in crisis and risk management ahead of the plane´s 2014 World Tour.
Borschberg said if they cannot make the flight tomorrow, they will continue to attempt the flight until June 26. If the meteorological conditions do not become favorable by this date, the team will forfeit the mission and head back to Switzerland.
However, the Solar Impulse team are hoping they will not have to forfeit the flight as the journey will be a sign of symbolism for both them, and the region, which is in the midst of building the largest thermo-solar power plant in the world.
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