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First Flight For Solar Impulse 2

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Solar Impulse 2, the solar-electric aircraft designed to fly around the world, flew more than two hours on Monday, for a successful maiden flight. The single-seat aircraft launched from the Payerne aerodrome in Switzerland, with test pilot Marcus Scherdel in command. "Si2 incorporates a vast amount of new technology to render it more efficient, reliable and in particular better adapted to long-haul flights," said André Borschberg, Solar Impulse CEO. "It is the first aircraft which will have almost unlimited endurance." The aircraft's wings, 236 feet across, carry 17,000 solar cells that supply four electric motors. During the day, the solar cells recharge lithium batteries that power the aircraft at night. On Monday's first flight, the aircraft reached altitudes up to 5,500 feet. The ground speed averaged 30 knots.

An earlier version of the aircraft, Solar Impulse I, flew across the U.S. last year. The project aims to "contribute to the cause of renewable energies, to demonstrate the importance of clean technologies for sustainable development, and to place dreams and emotions back at the heart of scientific adventure," according to solarimpulse.com. The team plans to fly the new aircraft around the world next year.

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