Solar Impulse 2 Completes First Test Flight

Solar Impulse 2 Solar Impulse

The Solar Impulse 2, a massive Swiss-made solar-powered airplane aiming to be the first to fly around the world next year, successfully completed its first test flight yesterday, climbing to nearly 6,000 feet and staying aloft for 2 hours and 17 minutes.

The Solar Impulse 2 is a larger version of its predecessor, the original Solar Impulse flown by Bertrand Piccard on several record flights including the first cross-country trips by a solar-powered airplane at night. During its U.S. voyage last year, it set a world record by covering a distance of 832 nautical miles in a single hop.

The Solar Impulse 2 has a wider wingspan, more efficient motors and bigger cabin. Its makers say the wing was produced with material that is one-third the weight of printer paper and fitted with 17,000 ultra-thin solar cells that allow it to fly day or night. At 236 feet, its wingspan is nearly as long as that of an Airbus A380.

Monday's test flight of the Solar Impulse 2 was the first of many planned for the months to come. The Solar Impulse team says it will attempt its record flight around the world sometime in 2015.

Watch the Solar Impulse 2's first flight here.

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