I wrote a few days ago that Solar Impulse, the electric aircraft that will eventually tour the world propelled by solar energy, was supposed to take off and fly overnight, just on solar power. For reasons allegedly connected to telemetry of the aircraft, essentail in such a flight, the take off was postponed until this morning. As I write this, Solar Impulse is cruising over your heads (if you are in Switzerland), trying to gain altitude that will be later exchanged in speed and thus in energy saving in preparation for the long night. More from their press release:
At 06:51 this morning, the Solar Impulse HB-SIA took off from the Payerne airbase with André Borscherg, CEO and co-founder of the Solar Impulse project, at the controls.
«For 7 years now, the whole team has been passionately working to achieve this first decisive step of the project», said André Borschberg a few minutes before easing himself into the cockpit for a flight expected to last until next morning.
And here are more details on the flight plan:
The whole day long, up to about 19:30, the prototype will be slowly ascending to an altitude of 8,500 metres, while at the same time charging its batteries in preparation for the night flight. When the sun’s rays stop being strong enough to supply the solar cells (about two hours before sunset) with energy, the HB-SIA will start a slow descent, reaching an altitude of around 1,500 metres by 23:00. It should then carry on flying, using the energy stored in its batteries, until the next sunrise. The big question is whether the pilot can make efficient use of the battery energy to fly throughout the night. If this mission is successful, it will be the longest and highest flight ever made by a solar plane.
To be precise, the longest and highest flight of a MANNED solar plane. I'm looking at embedding pics and a livecast, but the sorry connection I am using now does not agree with my plans. Check later for updates.