A decisive milestone was reached yesterday as the solar-charged, electric-powered Solar Impulse successfully completed the second-to-last leg of its Across America mission by landing at Washington Dulles International Airport–locally it was Sunday, June 16 at 12:15 a.m.–stimulating renewed enthusiasm for discovery and innovation.
The massive, gangly Solar Impulse landed at 12:30 a.m. in Phoenix on Saturday, having completed the first leg of the solar-powered airplane’s Across America mission. The flight departed Moffett Airfield in Mountain View, Calif. on Friday at 6:12 a.m. PDT and landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Saturday at 12:30 a.m. MST.
The flight took 18 hours and 18 minutes, all powered by 12,000 solar cells mounted in the wings, driving four 10-hp electric motors and propellers. To fly at night, energy is stored in 881 pounds of lithium-ion batteries.
Switzerland-based Solar Impulse is planning “Across America” flights this spring to showcase its sun-powered aircraft to the U.S. public and demonstrate and develop the possibilities of solar energy. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, the company is developing a second, larger aircraft that it hopes to fly around the world in 2015.
The Solar Impulse project recently received a burst of sunshine in the form of financial support from a commercial insurance firm, bolstering the team’s plans to complete the world’s first global circumnavigation by a piloted, solar-powered aircraft.
The electrically powered Solar Impulse (HB-SIA) is an amazing airplane and I was anxious to see it fly during the Paris Air Show. Unfortunately for me and probably many others who attended the biennial event, the weather did not cooperate until the last day of the show, June 26.
Qinetiq (Hall 2B in the UK Pavilion, Stand J13/4) announced it had received a contract from Belgian space systems company Verheart to build a solar-powered, unmanned aircraft designed to fly at 60,000 feet for months at a time. The Pegasus high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (HALE UAV) is part of a €11 million project awarded to Verheart by the Flemish Institute for Technological Research.