Can a blimp propelled entirely by solar power cross the English Channel? We’re about to find out! Nephelios, the world’s first solar blimp, was built by Projet Sol’r — a collaboration between students at engineering and technical schools in France. Now, almost a year after its debut (and a year after it was supposed to launch), the helium-filled airship is ready for action — its inaugural flight is set to take place as soon as next week.

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The mammoth airship measures 72 feet long and 18 feet wide and has a nylon and polyethylene aluminum frame. It also features semi-flexible solar cells that can generate up to 2.4 kilowatts — enough to keep the blimp moving at 25 mph. The cells power a motor that turns two big red propellers, which in turn are expected to send the ship across the Channel in under an hour.

We’ll be tracking the airship’s progress as it gets ready to launch — stay tuned!

+ Projet Sol’r