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Airplane to Fly across U.S. Powered by Sunshine [Slide Show]

Employing novel engineering, materials and psychology, a Swiss team will attempt to soar coast to coast this summer
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NIGHT FLIGHT:

Solar Impulse carries enough battery power to enable continuous flight. The plane soars above 9,000 meters during the day, and then to conserve electricity glides slowly down to 1,500 meters, where battery power keeps it aloft until the following sunrise.....[ More ]

PROPELLER:

The highly efficient electric engines spin the four propellers needed to keep the plane aloft.....[ More ]

EFFICIENT ENGINES:

The 200 square meters of solar cells feed electricity to electric engines that are 94 percent efficient.....[ More ]

SOLAR POWER:

Twelve thousand monocrystalline silicon solar cells made by the California-based company SunPower provide all the energy it needs to stay aloft, plus enough to recharge the batteries for night flight.....[ More ]

LONG BUT STRONG:

The Solar Impulse's wingspan stretches 63.4 meters. The wings’ length—nearly that of a Boeing 747—is necessary to make room for a sufficient number of solar cells.....[ More ]

ON A WING:

Atop the carbon-fiber-reinforced structure, the Solar Impulse team lays a layer of hair-thin (135 microns) solar cells. On the underside is fabric.....[ More ]

STRUCTURE:

The wing is made of carbon-fiber-reinforced tubes in a superstructure that is mostly empty; points that must endure stress are reinforced with 144 carbon-fiber "ribs.”....[ More ]

CONTROLS:

The pilot receives a constant readout of variables, including energy consumption and bank angle. Supplemental oxygen keeps the pilot breathing at high altitude; the oxygen is generated with the solar electricity rather than carried aloft in bottles.....[ More ]

COCKPIT AND GONDOLA:

Solar Impulse boasts four foam gondolas, each containing a lithium ion battery pack and an electric engine connected to a propeller—as well as a small cockpit with room for one.....[ More ]

TEST PILOTS:

Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard will trade 24-hour shifts in the flight across the country, stopping for appearances in Phoenix, Dallas, Saint Louis, Washington, D.C., and New York City. The cross-U.S.....[ More ]

SOLAR FLIGHT:

The Solar Impulse airplane, seen here in a test flight over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, generates enough power from the 200 square meters of solar cells to power the four electric engines that keep it aloft.....[ More ]

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