Solar Impulse, the sun-powered aircraft, is preparing to fly the final leg of its trans-USA journey, supported by satellite communications from Inmarsat.
If successful it will enter the record books as the first aircraft capable of flying 24 hours non-stop – day and night – powered exclusively by solar energy, to fly across America.
The aircraft has so far flown four legs – from San Francisco to Phoenix, then Dallas, St Louis and Washington DC.
The departure date for the pioneering final flight from Washington Dulles International Airport to JFK in New York will depend upon weather conditions, but is currently scheduled for early July.
The revolutionary carbonfibre plane has the same wingspan as a Boeing 747 (63.4m / 208ft) and is the weight of a small car (1,600kg / 3,527lb).
It is the result of seven years of work, calculations, simulations and tests by Swiss pioneers Dr Bertrand Piccard (Chairman) and André Borschberg (CEO).
Inmarsat provider OnAir supplied the Solar Impulse team with SwiftBroadband satellite technology.
This includes the ground infrastructure, specifically designed with Swisscom, to ensure global air-to-ground communications for the aircraft whenever and wherever it flies.
Ian Dawkins, OnAir CEO, said: “I am thrilled the Solar Impulse journey across the US is going so well. This is the type of innovation that determines the future of air travel.”
The aircraft's 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide four 10HP electric motors with renewable energy.
By day the solar cells recharge the 400kg / 881lb lithium batteries, which allow the plane to fly at night.
The ultimate aim of the Solar Impulse project is to fly the first solar-powered aircraft around the world, currently scheduled for 2015.
Solar Impulse: www.solarimpulse.com