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NASA Shows Off X-57 Electric Airplane

Media Invited To View The Aircraft In A Hangar At Edwards AFB

NASA gave reporters a look at the X-57 'Maxwell' aircraft in a hangar at its Edwards Armstrong Research Center in California last week.

The agency gave the media access to the airplane as it gets ready for ground testing, as well as the X-57 flight simulator, according to a tweet from the agency.

The X-57 is based on the Tecnam P2006T twin-engine airplane, but has been fitted with 14 electric motors and propellers (12 high-lift motors along the leading edge of the wing and two large wingtip cruise motors).

The X-57 team is using a “design driver” as a technical challenge, to drive lessons learned, as well as best practices. This design driver includes a 500 percent increase in high-speed cruise efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and flight that is much quieter for the community on the ground, according to the agency.

As an all-electric experimental aircraft, X-57 will be powered through the use of lithium ion battery systems. In order to implement these systems as safely as possible, NASA first had to validate that the batteries could safely power an entire flight profile, and demonstrate the system’s ability to isolate any rapid temperature increase to prevent it from spreading, and escalating into a fire – an event known as a “thermal runaway”.

NASA engineers achieved this milestone following a system redesign in 2017, allowing the batteries to be fabricated, and ensuring a safe environment for the test program. The successful battery redesign was shared publicly, providing an immediate benefit to the industry as a result of the research.

Pilots and engineers developed and began flying an X-57 simulator at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, designed to feature the specifications of the electric propulsion system. The interactive simulator began preparing pilots for X-57’s future flight-testing phase.

Flight control engineers and technicians at NASA Armstrong developed the simulator to provide a virtual flight experience based on what the X-plane itself will actually feel like when it’s in the air. The system helps familiarize pilots with the system and makes them more adept with reaction times and maneuvers.

(Image provided by NASA via Twitter)

FMI: www.nasa.gov/centers/armstrong/news/FactSheets/FS-109.html

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