Sunday, June 19, 2016

NASA Electric Research Plane Designated the X-57, Nickname: “Maxwell”

This artist’s concept of NASA’s X-57 Maxwell aircraft shows the plane’s specially designed wing and 14 electric motors. NASA Aeronautics researchers will use the Maxwell to demonstrate that electric propulsion can make planes quieter, more efficient and more environmentally friendly. (Credits: NASA Langley/Advanced Concepts Lab, AMA, Inc.) Click to Enlarge.
NASA will test new propulsion technology using an experimental airplane now designated the X-57 and nicknamed “Maxwell.”  The X-57 features 14 electric motors turning propellers, all of them integrated into a uniquely-designed wing.  NASA researchers ultimately envision a nine-passenger aircraft with a 500 kW power system in 2019.
As many as five larger transport-scale X-planes also are planned as part of the initiative.  Its goals—like the X-57—include demonstrating advanced technologies to reduce fuel use, emissions and noise, and thus accelerate their introduction to the marketplace.

The X-57 number designation was assigned by the US Air Force, which manages the history-making process, following a request from NASA.  The first X-plane was the X-1, which in 1947 became the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound.
NASA researchers working directly with the electric airplane also chose to name the aircraft “Maxwell” to honor James Clerk Maxwell, the 19th century Scottish physicist who did groundbreaking work in electromagnetism.

As part of a four-year flight demonstrator plan, NASA’s Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology Operations Research (SCEPTOR) project will build the X-57 by modifying a recently procured, Italian-designed Tecnam P2006T twin-engine light aircraft.
NASA’s aeronautical innovators hope to validate the idea that distributing electric power across a number of motors integrated with an aircraft in this way will result in a five-time reduction in the energy required for a private plane to cruise at 175 mph.

Several other benefits would result as well.  “Maxwell” will be powered only by batteries, eliminating carbon emissions and demonstrating how demand would shrink for lead-based aviation fuel still in use by general aviation.

Energy efficiency at cruise altitude using X-57 technology could benefit travelers by reducing flight times, fuel usage, as well as reducing overall operational costs for small aircraft by as much as 40%.  Typically, to get the best fuel efficiency an airplane has to fly slower than it is able.  Electric propulsion essentially eliminates the penalty for cruising at higher speeds.

Read more at NASA Electric Research Plane Designated the X-57, Nickname:  “Maxwell”

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