NASA’s X-57 Maxwell all-electric experimental aircraft is years in the making, but thanks to some recent milestones and thermal testing, it could be preparing for its maiden flight as a complete package.
The all-electric aircraft has been in development since 2016, and the space agency has been slowly testing everything from the electric motors to the battery systems and the cruise motors. Yes, the Cruise engines are different than the main propellers, as this experimental vehicle has several different electrical systems that keep it moving forward and off the ground.
The NASA X-57 Maxwell is not a typical aircraft. This plane has 12 small electric motors that help take off and two larger and more powerful cruising motors. As far as we know, all fourteen systems are used to take off and achieve cruising speeds and altitudes. Then the 12 smaller models are deactivated, powered down and folded away for improved aerodynamics.
At this point, the X-57 Maxwell will use the two larger Cruise engines. This combination could help reduce weight, improve range and efficiency, and provide smoother flight.
This week, NASA confirmed that both of these Cruise motor controllers passed critical thermal tests, another milestone for the vehicle. According to a blog post, “The controllers use silicon carbide transistors to achieve 98% efficiency during high-power takeoff and cruise, which means they don’t generate excessive heat and can be cooled by the air flowing through the engine. “
Now that air traffic controllers have safely managed some of the most extreme temperature conditions expected during a flight, NASA is one step closer to assembling the entire plane for its maiden voyage. However, there is a lot of competition in this area.
Unfortunately, there is no specific target date for its maiden flight, at least not yet, but the vehicle is ready for its flight readiness test by NASA. Finally, the X-57 Maxwell will take to the skies.
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