The X-57 Maxwell, named after Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell , was first displayed at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Annual Aviation and Aeronautics Forum & Exposition in June 2016. Now several years later, NASA has reported that it could start flying at the end of 2022.
This little experimental plane is powered solely by electricity and is the latest in a long line of NASA X-planes, or experimental planes. In this case, the X-57 demo will be used to show that the ship’s design works.
“What’s really exciting about electric propulsion technology is that it gives aircraft designers a lot of new and exciting tools that we can use to make aircraft do interesting things and do them more efficiently,” says Sean. Clarke, principal investigator for the project at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research.
How is this electric plane?
Unlike a typical commercial airliner, NASA’s small two-seater doesn’t rely on fuel tanks, instead using rechargeable lithium-ion batteries to power the engines and propellers that propel the craft through the air. And it weighs about 1,300 kilos.
Electric planes already exist, but they are mostly for very short trips or for research on unmanned flights. NASA claims that this model can fly hundreds of kilometers.
The X-57 Maxwell is powered by 14 electric motors, including 12 smaller propellers located along the wing that will help the aircraft achieve lift, used for takeoffs and landings, and a larger motor on each wingtip. which will be used for altitude. It will take off and land from the runways just like a traditional small plane.
The X-57 will initially have a range of approximately 160 kilometers and a critical takeoff speed of 58 knots (about 107 km/h) -for which it will use 250 kilowatts of power-, so it will be able to be in the air for about 60 minutes, according to NASA.
NASA plans to develop five larger X-planes for commercial production. The first X plane, known as the XS-1 or Bell X-1, was introduced in 1947 and was the first plane to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Reference: NASA X PLANES