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Swiss Solar-Powered Plane Successfully Completes Groundbreaking 26-Hour Night Flight

• Clay Dillow via PopSci

A team of visionary Swiss engineers and at least one test pilot with nerves of steel have pushed solar-powered flight to the next level, completing an overnight flight that proves solar flight is possible even when the plane’s fuel source dips behind the horizon. This morning test-pilot André Borschberg successfully put Solar Impulse HB-SIA on the ground safely after 26 hours and nine minutes of flight powered solely by the sun.

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The flight began yesterday morning, as Borshberg slowly climbed to a maximum altitude just beyond 28,000 feet while more than 10,000 solar cells stretched across its massive 200-foot wingspan soaked up solar energy and stored it in batteries inside the plane. Solar Impulse then slowly descended as the day’s sunlight waned, acting as a glider to use the least amount of power possible. The plane switched the power back on at somewhere around 5,000 feet and cruised easily through the rest of the night on the stored solar energy.

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