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Solar Impulse Team Ready For Across America Zero-Fuel Flight

March 30, 2013
Image Caption: Bertrand Piccard (left) and Andre Borschberg speak at the official press conference for their Across America tour (March 28, 2013). Credit: Solar Impulse

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Eight months after the Solar Impulse team of Bertrand Piccard and Andre Borschberg completed an international flight from Toulouse, France to Ouarzazate, Morocco and back again, the duo are now planning an Across America US tour.

Piccard and Borschberg´s HB-SIA zero-fuel airplane has proven that an aircraft can fly both day and night solely on the power of the Sun. In the US, they plan to fly from coast-to-coast, making several stops in key cities along the way. It will be the first time a solar-powered plane has crossed America in flight.

The team plans to begin their journey in San Francisco, California in May and will make their way to Phoenix, Arizona for their first checkpoint. The team will then move on to their next destination: Dallas-Fort Worth; then it´s on to Washington DC and finally ending the tour in New York City in early July.

During each stop the team is planning celebrations, conferences and educational events. The entire mission is expected to last two months. Most of the events during the tour will be live streamed on Solar Impulse´s website.

“Following in the footsteps of the American founding fathers of aviation, Solar Impulse´s pioneering endeavor across the U.S. will be a highly significant one: it is the last mission before attempting a zero-fuel round-the-world flight in 2015,” the Solar Impulse team said in an official statement.

The Solar Impulse Across America US tour should be an inspiration for America and the team is looking to motivate as many people as possible.

“We want to show that with clean technologies, a passionate team and a far-reaching pioneering vision one can achieve the impossible.” Piccard, Solar Impulse Initiator, Chairman and pilot, said in the statement. He further added that, “If we all challenged certitudes by driving change and being pioneers in our everyday lives, we can create innovative solutions for society´s biggest challenges.”

Piccard and Borschberg´s HB-SIA Solar Impulse aircraft is being hailed by experts as a technological wonder. The plane has a wingspan of 208 feet and weighs in at nearly 3,600 lbs. The plane uses no traditional fuel whatsoever and operates on four propeller engines powered by 12,000 solar cells attached to the craft´s wings. While it´s not the first plane to ever be powered solely by the sun, it is the first that can fly both day and night continuously.

“A flying laboratory for clean technologies, this prototype is the result of seven years of intense work in the fields of materials science, energy management and man-machine interface. Many of these technologies can also be applied to sectors beyond aviation,” said Borschberg, Solar Impulse co-founder, CEO and pilot.

While Piccard and Borschberg´s ultimate goal is to prove that emissions-free air travel is possible, they said it is unlikely that solar technology can replace the fuel systems in today´s jetliners anytime soon. Their project, however, is designed to promote new energy-efficient technologies.

The Across America US tour will be the final mission before the team readies for their 2015 World Tour. And while they believe the goal of a round-the-world mission is recognizable, they do admit that the five-day flight across the Pacific will be a hair-raising thrill ride. With the potential for dangerous storms, the plane´s lightweight components may be vulnerable to damage. And if clouds persist for too long over the ocean, it could hamper the cells´ ability to recharge.

The Solar Impulse team has received the financial support of Solvay, Schindler, Bayer MaterialScience, Swiss Re Corporate Solutions and the Swiss Confederation.


Source: Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online



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