NASA’s electric experimental aircraft, the X-57 “Maxwell,” is nearing the end of ground tests and being prepared for the installation of batteries, the agency said late last week. The X-57 is a modified Tecnam P2006T will fly later this year in a "Mod II" configuration, with the battries installed but still using its two avgas-powered Rotax engines. A final configuration, slated to fly in 2025, will replace the Rotax engines with 14 leading-edge-mounted electric motors.
According to NASA, the project is a research platform to build confidence in cleaner and more energy-efficient aircraft. Under the project, the agency will test and determine the airworthiness of electrified aircraft technologies, including battery technology, electric motor capabilities, and distributed electric propulsion.
“The X-57 project has made substantial contributions to the field of electric aircraft propulsion as an initial pathfinder building a knowledge base of expertise that is influencing industry standards and contributing to future electric vehicle demonstrations,” said Heather Maliska, the X-57 project manager at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
Lessons learned from the X-57 project are already being shared with industry and academia to develop pathways for future electric aircraft, NASA said.