ORLANDO, Florida, July 10 (UPI) – One of the fastest jet aircraft ever built is about to break two world records on Thursday as it travels around the world through the North and South Poles.
The One More Orbit mission is due to land on Thursday morning at the Kennedy Space Center. The mission took off from center Tuesday morning from the space shuttle landing strip.
Two world records are at stake: one for an average speed of 511 mph and one for a total minimum duration of just over 54 hours. The new attempt is for a time of 49 hours and 36 minutes. This would mean that the plane would land around 11 o'clock.
Officials of the International Aeronautical Federation and Guinness records are in Florida to check the record attempt.
Pilots include retired astronaut Terry Virts and cosmonaut Gennady Padalka. The captain of mission is Hamish Harding, president of the British company Action Aviation.
"We can not do without the last ray of sunshine before it gets dark for the next 20 hours!" Virts tweeted on Wednesday morning.
"Towards the South Pole!" Harding tweeted, adding that the plane should pass over the pole around 16:30. EDT.
Virts, a filmmaker known for his work on the IMAX film A beautiful planet, in collaboration with executive producer Jim Evans, are also preparing a documentary while they are stealing. Parts of the flight were streamed live via YouTube.
"The logistics to carry out this mission, from the point of view of global diffusion, is enormous," said Evans.
The flight made brief stops of half an hour to refuel in Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Chile. Although he was a little behind the schedule due to headwinds, he made up for that time, according to One More Orbit.
The jet, a Gulfstream G650ER, belongs to a subsidiary of Qatar Airways. Mission sponsors include Satcom Direct and Inmarsat, which provide a satellite bandwidth connection to the aircraft; G-Technology hard drives; British company Action Aviation; LiveUU coder, Space Florida and Carbon Underground, specializing 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 Flight Endeavor 2015, the STS-130.
The flight is estimated at 25,000 miles. Qatar Executive and Gulfstream claim that the jet can fly at a higher speed over longer distances than any other aircraft, with a range of 8,630 miles.