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Solar-powered plane lands in Morocco after historic flight

06-06-2012 18:03 BJT

RABAT, June 6 (Xinhua) -- Morocco witnessed the accomplishment of the world's first transcontinental flight by a solar-powered plane late Tuesday as the aircraft landed at a Rabat airport after nearly 20 hours of nonstop flight across the strait of Gibraltar.

The aircraft, named Rabat Solar Impulse and fitted with 12,000 solar cells, left the Spanish capital Madrid before dawn, flew about 800 km over the strait in the Mediterranean, and arrived safely in the Moroccan capital, without a drop of fuel.

Made of carbon fiber, the plane is of the size of an Airbus A340, but only weighs as much as an average family car -- about 1, 600 kg, according to its creators.

The 12,000 solar cells built into the wing provide four 10HP electric motors with renewable energy. By day the solar cells recharge the 400 kg lithium batteries, enabling the plane to fly at night.

The plane will later fly to its final destination, Ouarzazate in central Morocco, where its team will participate in inaugurating the construction of one of the world's largest thermo- solar power plant with a capacity of 160 MW.

Morocco plans to build five solar plants to generate in total 2, 000 megawatts of electricity and prevent the emission of 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide.

The solar-powered airplane arrived in Madrid on May 25 from Switzerland. Its two-leg Europe-Africa trip covers 2,500 km.

This transcontinental mission is described by the organizers as a final dress rehearsal for a round-the-world flight with a new and improved plane in 2014.

The project began in 2003 and is estimated to cost about 100 million U.S. dollars over 10 years.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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