Solar Impulse Unveiling Set For Friday

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Solar Impulse, an airplane designed to fly around the world on solar power, will be unveiled tomorrow, Friday, June 26, at Dubendorf airfield near Zurich, Switzerland. The aircraft has a wingspan of 210 feet and weighs about 3,500 pounds. It's powered by four 10-hp electric motors and carries more than 11,000 solar cells on the wing and the horizontal stabilizer. "The design of the aircraft, pure and futuristic, will itself be the symbol of the spirit of the project in the sky," says the company Web site. The project has been in the works since 2003, and organizers hope to launch the round-the-world flight in 2012.

Five flight legs are planned, each lasting three to four days, "which is considered to be the maximum a single pilot can endure," according to the Web site. Each stopover will provide a chance to change pilots and welcome the public to learn about the project. The team of more than 50 is led by Bertrand Piccard, who was commander of the first nonstop around-the-world balloon flight, in 1999. His goal is to promote the immense potential of renewable energy and new technologies. Friday's unveiling will be streamed live online by Swisscom, a new sponsor for the project.