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First Night Flight Using Solar Energy On the Horizon

The Solar Impulse HB-SIA - the first airplane designed to fly day and night without fuel - left the ground yesterday for the first time. Recent results from ground tests had verified the prototype's controllability, acceleration, braking paths, and engine power.

Test pilot Markus Scherdel took the prototype to its take-off speed, and after about 350 meters of flight at an altitude of one meter, the prototype landed back on Dübendorf Airfield's runway in Switzerland.

The HB-SIA is the first prototype of the Solar Impulse project, and it has been a long-term work in progress. The project was launched in 2003, and years of work, calculations, simulations, and tests by a 70-person team led to its unveiling in June of this year.

Over 12,000 solar cells mounted onto the wing will supply energy to four electric motors with a maximum power of 10 HP each. During the day they will also charge the lithium-polymer batteries (400 kg), which will permit the HB-SIA to fly through the night.