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Jet takes off from Florida to attempt global flight records

By
Paul Brinkmann

ORLANDO, Fla., July 9 (UPI) -- A jet took off from Florida's Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday morning in an attempt to break world records for flying around the Earth over the North and South poles.

Retired astronaut Terry Virts and a team of pilots from British company Action Aviation will fly an executive jet for about 48 hours with the briefest of stops to refuel in Kazakhstan, Mauritius and Chile. A live stream video that was expected to show jet's interior was working sporadically in the first hour of the flight.

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"Just crossed into Canada - 2 minutes ahead of schedule," Virts tweeted about 11:38 a.m., more than two hours into the flight.

The mission's progress can be tracked via radar signal at FlightRadar24.com.

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The Gulfstream G650ER is owned by a subsidiary of Qatar Airways. The pilots will attempt to shave hours off a record that's gone unchallenged since 2008, according to a news release from Action.

Two world records are at stake -- one for average speed set in 2008, and one for total minimum time set in 1977 by a Pan American 747.

The mission, titled One More Orbit, paid tribute to the achievements of the Apollo moon missions with a takeoff time of 9:32 a.m. -- the same time as the original Apollo 11 liftoff on July 16, 1969.

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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 also designed to be "carbon neutral" by using carbon sequestration offsets.

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.

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