One More Orbit’s globe-circling jet is set to break aviation records
ORLANDO, Fla., July 10 (UPI) — One the fastest executive jets ever built is poised to break two world records Thursday for circling the globe via the North and South poles.
The One More Orbit mission is due to land at Kennedy Space Center on Thursday morning. The mission took off from the center on Tuesday morning from the space shuttle landing strip.
Two world records are at stake — one for average speed of 511 mph and one for total minimum time of just over 54 hours. The new attempt is aiming for a time of 49 hours, 36 minutes. That would mean the plane would land about 11 a.m.
Officials from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (World Air Sports Federation) and Guinness World Records are in Florida to verify the record attempt.
Pilots include retired astronaut Terry Virts and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. Mission captain is Hamish Harding, chairman of British company Action Aviation.
“We can’t get enough of the last sunlight before it gets dark for the next 20 hrs!” Virts tweeted Wednesday morning.
“Heading to South Pole!” Harding tweeted, adding that the plane should pass over the pole around 4:30 p.m. EDT.
Virts, a filmmaker known for his work on the IMAX film A Beautiful Planet, along with executive producer Jim Evans, are also preparing a documentary as they fly. Parts of the flight were live streamed via YouTube.
“The logistics of pulling this mission off, from a global broadcast standpoint, are tremendous,” Evans said.
The flight made brief, half-hour stops to refuel in Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Chile. Although it fell behind schedule briefly due to head winds, it made up that time, according to One More Orbit.
The jet, a Gulfstream G650ER, is owned by a subsidiary of Qatar Airways. Mission sponsors include Satcom Direct and inmarsat, which are providing satellite bandwidth connection to the aircraft; G-Technology hard drives; British company Action Aviation; LiveU encoder, Space Florida and Carbon Underground, which specializes in carbon sequestration to make the mission carbon negative.
Virts is a former commander of the International Space Station and a space shuttle pilot for the 2015 flight of Endeavour, STS-130.
The flight is estimated at 25,000 miles. Qatar Executive and Gulfstream claim the jet can fly at a faster speed for longer distances than any other jet, with a range of 8,630 miles.