Solar Impulse, the fully Solar Powered Plane is set to create history again as it will fly coast-to-coast in U.S. without a single drop of fuel.
The aircraft, took off from Moffett Airfield near San Francisco, California, just after 9 a.m. EDT (6 a.m. PDT) and is expected to land in Phoenix around 3 a.m. EDT (1 a.m. PDT) Saturday. Solar Impulse is expected to reach a cruising altitude of 21,000 feet (6,400 meters).
Flying the cross-country flight are Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, Swiss pilots with extensive backgrounds in aviation. Piccard was the first pilot to complete a nonstop balloon flight around the globe, Borschberg trained as a fighter pilot in the Swiss air force. The duo, who designed the aircraft and will take turns piloting the solar plane across the country, are just warming up for a round-the-world solar flight they aim to make in 2015. In mid-May, the ultra-lightweight plane will begin the second leg of its trip, taking off in Phoenix and landing in Dallas, Texas. Toward the end of May, Solar Impulse will depart for St. Louis, Mo.; the fourth leg will take the plane from St. Louis to Washington, D.C.; and the fifth and last leg will end in New York City in late June or early July.
In May 2012, the Solar Impulse achieved the first solar-powered intercontinental flight by flying from Spain to Morocco in just over 19 hours. Solar Impulse also completed a successful 26-hour overnight flight in 2010.
The Impulse, which is completely solar-powered, requires no fossil fuels and emits no pollution. Instead, the aircraft is covered in almost 12,000 silicon solar cells that drive four electric motors and can turn the plane's propellers day and night with special batteries that store power. Weighing in at approximately 880 pounds (400 kilograms), the batteries account for more than 25 percent of the plane's total mass, something that required major weight reductions in the rest of the body. Piccard and Borschberg plan on flying a solar-powered plane around the world in 2015—they're building a second plane with a larger cockpit and a few other adjustments for the journey, which they hope to complete in just 20 days.
Recreated from original blog post authored by Nilesh Y. Jadhav at Solarika.org