NASA’s X-57 Maxwell all-electric aircraft is powered by two 400-pound lithium-ion batteries!


NASA’s X-57 Maxwell all-electric aircraft has taken another step toward its maiden flight with the successful installation of two 400-pound lithium-ion batteries in the aircraft cabin.

It should be mentioned that the space agency’s X-planes were launched in 1944 to continue research on high-speed aircraft. Ongoing projects, NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Jet (X-59 QueSST) and Electric Airplane (X-57 “Maxwell”) are part of this “X-planes” series, and are getting closer to their first flights. ‘test.

Project X-57 is the agency’s first fully experimental electric aircraft and an early part of NASA’s work to develop sustainable aviation solutions. Instead of aviation fuel, it will use commercial rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for the power its engines need to fly.


A rendering of the NASA X-57 Maxwell.


The X-57 program was launched in 2016 as part of NASA’s Scalable Converged Electric Propulsion Technology (SCEPTOR) Operations Research project. The acronym basically stands for the development of low-emission aircraft powered by electric motors.

The “Maxwell”, an Italian Tecnam P2006T, was converted to an electric aircraft last year by replacing its conventional Rotax engines with two electric motors made by Joby Aviation.

To reach this point, the X-57 project team repeatedly tested the batteries to ensure they could safely power the aircraft for an entire flight, and designed custom lightweight cases to maintain batteries safe.

After installing the battery, the crew successfully tested the X-57 aircraft’s battery-operated engines. The engines had already been running, but drew power from the test facility or batteries when sitting outside the aircraft.

Prior to the engine spin test, the aircraft’s cruise engine controllers underwent random vibration testing. These hardware acceptance tests take place on vibration tables set to vibrate randomly at the same frequencies as the acceleration motors, to ensure that all systems remain functional in flight. Random vibration acceptance testing for all X-57 aircraft cruise motor controllers has taken place to ensure that all systems remain functional while enduring the vibration environment expected during flight .

Additionally, the cruise motors have been placed on a dynamometer, an electric motor speed tester, to ensure that they will run at temperature, horsepower, torque, speed, voltage and maximum current expected during the flight.

NASA will perform taxi and fly operations once the required integration and system testing is complete and the aircraft is operating as designed.

By July 2021, the X-57 Maxwell had successfully completed high-voltage testing, which powered the aircraft from auxiliary power to test the functionality of full-power integrated systems.

In the coming months, the X-57 project will begin a series of test flights. Each will develop the others, with data collected to understand aircraft operation and performance.

X-57 – and most X-Planes are designed to pass on its findings to the aircraft industry, rather than create a new type of aircraft. The main objective of the X-57 project is to share the electric propulsion of the aircraft. focused design, airworthiness process and technology with industry, standards bodies and regulators to inform certification approaches for all-electric propulsion in emerging electric aircraft markets.


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