Aimed to keep the United States at the forefront of aviation, NASA Aeronautics is poised to help develop airframes and technologies that will benefit industry and help meet US environmental goals.
NASA’s experimental all-electric aircraft, the X-57 “Maxwell”, is one of the agency’s first planes to demonstrate greener flight technology.
The X-57 project is a research platform aimed at building confidence in cleaner and more energy-efficient means of air transport. It will do this by testing and determining 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 precursor by creating a knowledge base of expertise that influences industry standards and contributes to future demonstrations of electric vehicles” , said Heather Maliska, X-57 project manager. at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
Scheduled to take flight later this year, the X-57 is intended to have zero in-flight emissions. Uniquely designed with a high aspect ratio wing, the X-57 is designed to inform future electric aircraft standards.
The X-plane is an already built aircraft using a Tecnam P2006T. The aircraft was modified, replacing its gasoline engines with electric motors and batteries. Currently, the X-57 is nearing the end of ground testing and preparing for the installation of batteries
Lessons learned from the X-57 project are continually being shared with industry and academia to develop pathways for future electric aircraft needed by emerging advanced air mobility markets. Since the X-57 aircraft will be battery-powered, it can run on electricity, demonstrating the potential environmental and economic benefits of electric aircraft.
Another NASA project to make flying more environmentally friendly is the EPFD (Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration) project. Working with industry and academia, the EPFD will build and fly aircraft equipped with megawatt hybrid electric powertrains to demonstrate the viability of this technology for commercial aircraft. In September 2021, NASA awarded contracts to GE Aviation of Cincinnati, Ohio, and magniX Inc. of Redmond, Washington, to rapidly mature electrified aircraft propulsion technologies through ground and flight demonstrations .
NASA will provide technical knowledge to the teams and ensure the success of the work.
NASA also plans to award a contract to build a sustainable flight demonstrator, a full-scale X-plane to test an ultra-efficient aerodynamic design and prove predicted flight benefits that will help industry develop the next generation of single-aisle aircraft. .
NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s Sustainable Flight National Partnership demonstrates through these projects the agency’s commitment to providing viable solutions to the national goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. 2050.
The X-57, EPFD and Sustainable Flight Demonstrator projects are part of NASA’s Integrated Aviation Systems program.
The program conducts flight-focused and system-level research and technology development activities to mature and transform advanced aeronautical technologies into future air vehicles and operational systems. It also focuses on performing highly complex flight tests and related experiments to support all phases of NASA aeronautical research.