Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now


You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.

NASA unveils its first electric airplane, the X-57 Maxwell

Reuters|
​NASA has a new airplane
1/7

​NASA has a new airplane

NASA, most prominent for its many Florida-launched exploits into space, showcased an early version of its first all-electric experimental aircraft, the X-57 "Maxwell," at its lesser-known aeronautics lab in the California desert.

Image credit: https://www.nasa.gov/

Agencies
​First flight in 2020
2/7

​First flight in 2020

Adapted from a Italian-made Tecnam P2006T twin-engine propeller plane, the X-57 has been under development since 2015 and remains at least a year away from its first test flight in the skies over Edward Air Force Base.

But after attaching the two largest of 14 electric motors that will ultimately propel the plane - powered by specially designed lithium ion batteries - NASA deemed the Maxwell ready for its first public preview.

Image credit: https://www.nasa.gov/

Agencies
​A work in progress
3/7

​A work in progress

NASA also showed off a newly built simulator that allows engineers, and pilots, to get the feel of what it will be like to maneuver the finished version of the X-57 in flight, even as the plane remains under development.

In pic: NASA test pilot Wayne Ringelberg trains in a flight simulator for NASA's first all-electric plane, the X-57 Maxwell.

Reuters
​Experimental aircraft
4/7

​Experimental aircraft

The Maxwell is the latest in a proud line of experimental aircraft the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has developed over many decades for many purposes, including the bullet-shaped Bell X-1 that first broke the sound barrier and the X-15 rocket plane flown by Neil Armstrong before he joined the Apollo moon team.

Image credit: https://www.nasa.gov/

Agencies
​Aim
5/7

​Aim

The Maxwell will be the agency's first crewed X-plane to be developed in two decades.

While private companies have been developing all-electric planes and hover-craft for years, NASA's X-57 venture is aimed at designing and proving technology according to standards that commercial manufacturers can adapt for government certification.

In pic: An electric power gage is shown on the screen of a flight simulator for NASA's first all-electric plane, the X-57 Maxwell.

Reuters
​​Features
6/7

​​Features

Those will include standards for airworthiness and safety, as well as for energy efficiency and noise, Brent Cobleigh, a project manager for NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, about 100 miles (160 km) north of Los Angeles.

The lift propellers will be activated for take-off and landings, but retract during the flight's cruise phase.

Because electric motor systems are more compact with fewer moving parts than internal-combustion engines, they are simpler to maintain and weigh much less, requiring less energy to fly, Cobleigh explained. They also are quieter than conventional engines.

Image credit: https://www.nasa.gov/

Agencies
​Challenge
7/7

​Challenge

One challenge is improving battery technology to store more energy to extend the plane's range, with faster re-charging.

Due to current battery limitations, the Maxwell's design is envisioned for use in short-haul flights as an air-taxi or commuter plane for a small number of passengers.

In pic: Technicians work on NASA's first all-electric plane, the X-57 Maxwell, at NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, California, US.

Reuters
X
User

Other useful Links


Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service