GlobalFlyer To Launch From Space Center In February

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The Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be the takeoff site for Steve Fossett's next attempt to set a record for the longest flight of an airplane, NASA announced on Friday. Fossett plans to fly Virgin Atlantic's GlobalFlyer aircraft around the world and then across the Atlantic a second time, solo, without stopping or refueling. "Launching from the Kennedy Space Center at NASA will give both pilot and aircraft the ultimate launch pad for this ultimate flight," said Sir Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Atlantic Airways. "We're excited to be able to partner with NASA on this attempt, as it is a perfect combination of innovation and aspiration." The GlobalFlyer is scheduled to arrive at Kennedy for preflight preparations on Jan. 6. The exact date of the launch will depend on weather. NASA said the agreement to use Kennedy's Space Shuttle Landing Facility is the result of a pilot program to expand access to the shuttle's runway for non-NASA activities. "We're thrilled that Steve Fossett and Virgin Atlantic selected the Shuttle Landing Facility as the take-off point for this world record attempt," said Kennedy Space Center Director Jim Kennedy. "The project will further enhance our efforts to expand the facility's use." The GlobalFlyer, designed by Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites, is a single-pilot, ultra-light aircraft designed for nonstop global circumnavigation. The plane will fly mostly at 45,000 feet at speeds faster than 285 mph.