This morning at 6:12 am PST, the Solar Impulse solar-powered airplane took off from San Francisco’s Moffett Airfield, beginning the first leg of its planned flight across the U.S.

The aircraft was piloted by Bertrand Piccard (and still is, at the time of this posting). He will be sharing piloting duties throughout the course of the 2013 Across America mission with fellow Solar Impulse team member André Borschberg. The mission will be broken into five legs, with the plane making stops at select American cities between each one. It is expected that the final leg of the journey will begin in early July.

Officially known as HB-SIA, the single-passenger Solar Impulse aircraft incorporates 11,628 solar cells on the top of its wing and horizontal stabilizer. These power its four 10-hp electric motors, and also charge its 400 kilograms (882 lb) of lithium batteries – allowing it to fly at night.

It should be completing the first leg of the mission when it lands in Phoenix, Arizona this Saturday (May 4th). Live video being streamed from the aircraft can be seen below.

Source: Solar Impulse

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    About the Author

    Ben Coxworth

    An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.

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    • While all this eco-solar tek is impressive, I believe that we are further away from having regular commercial flights with this stuff than the Wright bros. were from the space shuttle. When you factor in the cost of the solar cells and the risk of flying in these flimsy machines you soon see that they are all design exercises. I bet they are flying without insurance too. I also wonder if the on board batteries are adequate to provide enough power to keep the pilot warm at night and maintain flight. For me, the vision of solar flight on gossamer wings has already had a crash landing with reality.

    • From the tiniest acorn the mighty oak grows. Give it time and a lot more research and we will see great things. The scramjet was once said to be impossible too... hell, human flight itself needed a bit of thinking about.

      Vincent Ingram

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