NASA rolls out first electric aircraft X-57 that can set standards in future market

NASA receives first electric version of its X-57 aircraft

X-57 Mod II
NASA’s X-57 Maxwell, the agency’s first all-electric X-plane and first crewed X-planed in two decades, is delivered to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, in its Mod II configuration. The first of three primary modifications for the project, Mod II involves testing of the aircraft’s cruise electric propulsion system. Delivery to NASA from prime contractor Empirical Systems Aerospace of San Luis Obispo, California, marks a major milestone for the project, at which point the vehicle is reintegrated for ground tests, to be followed by taxi tests, and eventually, flight tests. X-57’s goal is to further advance the design and airworthiness process for distributed electric propulsion technology for general aviation aircraft, which can provide multiple benefits to efficiency, emissions, and noise. NASA

NASA's manufacturing partner has delivered the all-electric configuration of the space agency's experimental X-57 aircraft. As the agency's first electric aircraft, X-57 will be used by NASA in developing certification standards for an emerging all-electric market.

The electric variant of the X-57 Maxwell is known as Modification II or Mod II. It was developed by the California-based research and development firm Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) for NASA.

Last week, ESAero was able to deliver the complete and fully operational version of X-57 Mod II to NASA. According to the space agency, the X-57 Mod II features electric cruise motors instead of traditional combustion engines.

With the aircraft now at their warehouse in the Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC) in California, NASA plans to carry out a series of ground-based tests on the aircraft. The agency will then move on to flight tests depending on the performance of the X-57 Mod II.

"The X-57 Mod II aircraft delivery to NASA is a significant event, marking the beginning of a new phase in this exciting electric X-plane project," the aircraft's project manager Tom Rigney said in a statement.

"With the aircraft in our possession, the X-57 team will soon conduct extensive ground testing of the integrated electric propulsion system to ensure the aircraft is airworthy," he added. "We plan to rapidly share valuable lessons learned along the way as we progress toward flight testing."

NASA and ESAero pursued the development of an electrical configuration for the former's experimental aircraft in order to create a baseline for a growing market within the air transportation industry. This market, which includes electric aircraft and urban air mobility vehicles, will soon follow a set of certification standards that NASA will establish through the X-57.

In order to fully develop the certification guidelines, NASA will conduct other major modifications to the X-57. According to the agency, the additional changes, such as high-aspect ratio wings, will be featured in the aircraft's future Mod III and Mod IV configurations. These modifications will also be handled by ESAero for NASA.

"ESAero is thrilled to be delivering the Mod II X-57 Maxwell to NASA AFRC," the company's CEO and president Andrew Gibson said. "In this revolutionary time, the experience and lessons learned, from early requirements to current standards development, has X-57 paving the way."

"This milestone, along with receiving the successfully load-tested Mod III wing back, will enable NASA, ESAero and the small business team to accelerate and lead electric air vehicle distributed propulsion development on the Mod III and Mod IV configurations with integration at our facilities," he added.

Related topics : Nasa