NASA takes delivery of its first all-electric x-plane

The X-57's Mod II vehicle features the replacement of traditional combustion engines on a baseline Tecnam P2006T aircraft, with electric cruise motors.

The electric motors for X-57’s Mod II vehicle and their propellers were powered up and spun together for the first time as part of an integrated spin test. Chris Higbee, Project Engineer at Scaled Composites, is seen in the cockpit of the Mod II vehicle, which is the aircraft’s first of three electric configurations. The wind turbines seen along the hillside in the background illustrate a noticeable, appropriate impression of the future final phase of X-57, known as Mod IV, which will feature 12 small electric high-lift motors and propellers along its wing.
The electric motors for X-57’s Mod II vehicle and their propellers were powered up and spun together for the first time as part of an integrated spin test. Chris Higbee, Project Engineer at Scaled Composites, is seen in the cockpit of the Mod II vehicle, which is the aircraft’s first of three electric configurations. The wind turbines seen along the hillside in the background illustrate a noticeable, appropriate impression of the future final phase of X-57, known as Mod IV, which will feature 12 small electric high-lift motors and propellers along its wing.
AFRC TV / Steve Parcel

WASHINGTON - The first all-electric configuration of NASA's X-57 Maxwell now is at the agency's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.

The X-57, NASA's first all-electric experimental aircraft, or X-plane – and the first crewed X-plane in two decades – was delivered by Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) of San Luis Obispo, California on Wednesday, Oct. 2, in the first of three configurations as an all-electric aircraft, known as Modification II, or Mod II.

The X-57's Mod II vehicle features the replacement of traditional combustion engines on a baseline Tecnam P2006T aircraft, with electric cruise motors. The delivery is a major milestone for the project, allowing NASA engineers to begin putting the aircraft through ground tests, to be followed by taxi tests and eventually, flight tests.

While X-57's Mod II vehicle begins systems validation testing on the ground, efforts in preparation for the project's following phases, Mods III and IV, are already well underway, with the recent successful completion of loads testing on a new, high-aspect ratio wing at NASA Armstrong's Flight Loads Laboratory. Following completion of tests, the wing, which will be featured on Mods III and IV configurations, will undergo fit checks on a fuselage at ESAero, ensuring timely transition from the project's Mod II phase to Mod III.

A goal of the X-57 project is to help develop certification standards for emerging electric aircraft markets, including urban air mobility vehicles, which also rely on complex distributed electric propulsion systems. NASA will share the aircraft's electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators and industry, which will advance certification approaches for aircraft utilizing distributed electric propulsion.

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

The X-57 project operates under the Integrated Aviation Systems Program's Flight Demonstrations and Capabilities project, within NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.

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