Solar plane completes first coasttocoast solar flight

first_imgFrom its start in Mountain View, California, the Solar Impulse plane was setting records. The nearly 1000-mile journey from Phoenix to Dallas set a new distance record in solar aviation, but the ultimate goal was much bigger than that. After another stop in St. Louis, the plane eventually reached its destination in Washington, D.C., at Dulles International Airport. In airborne spurts of up to 26 hours each, Solar Impulse has made its way clear across North America.The feat was accomplished thanks to a number of cutting-edge technologies, from the 12,000 or so super-efficient solar cells which line the plane’s enormous wingspan, as well as the lithium polymer batteries that allow it to keep flying at night. During the day, the panels can provide enough energy to both power the plane and charge the batteries. Even the body of the plane is only possible thanks to a new carbon-fiber honeycomb sandwich design that allowed the wings to be both large enough, light enough, and strong enough to take to the air.HB-SIA, in the flesh.One of the main reasons the plane, dubbed HB-SIA, wasn’t able to cross the US in a single bound is its functional abilities as a plane, rather than a solar plane. The cockpit is not pressurized, and lacks most of the advanced avionics found in long-term fliers today. Its successor, the creatively named HB-SIB, will incorporate both of these technologies, and more. Expect to hear news of its exploits as early as 2015.Secretary Muniz speaks to a crowd at the National Air and Space Museum.US Energy Secretary Ernest Muniz attended a landing celebration at the National Air and Space Museum, rallying support for solar technology going forward. It’s a tough sell, not because there’s no potential, but because he’s speaking to a generation that was raised on promises about solar power, almost none of which have actually come to fruition. There’s really no possible future in which solar does not play a huge part, since the sun is the only energy source that could possible provide for our ever-increasing needs, but any time anyone sets a concrete timeline for achievement in the area, eyes begin to roll.Secretary Muniz said he thinks people will be genuinely surprised by what solar can do in 10 years, and while that’s a claim everyone older than 10 has made years before, it was made slightly more convincing by the context in which he said it: standing before a plane that had just traversed the width of the United States.last_img

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