The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has showcased a prototype of its first electric aircraft experiment, namely the X-57 Maxwell, Reuters reported on Saturday November 9th.
The X-57 has been under development since 2015, it is around a year away from its first real test flight. Powered by specially designed lithium ion batteries, Nasa determined that the plane is ready for its first showcase after attaching the two largest motors of the 14-motor system.
Nasa has further reviewed a new simulator that allows engineers and pilots to experience how flying the finished version of the X-57 will feel.
The X-57 Maxwell will be the agency's first crewed X-plane to be developed in two decades. Nasa aims to develop and introduce technologies in accordance with standards that commercial manufacturers can adapt for government certification.
The new electric motor systems will improve energy efficiency, noise and overall safety, according to Brent Cobleigh, a project manager for Nasa's Armstrong Flight Research Centre.
The target is to fly the plane by late 2020 he said, and Nasa was aiming to help the entire aerospace industry, not just one company.
The electric motor systems are more compact, weigh much less and require less energy to fly, according to Cobleigh.
Nasa is currently researching improvement in battery technology to be able to store more power. The current design is aimed for short flights due to current battery capacity.
The Maxwell is the latest product to be manufactured by Nasa which made Bell X-1, the rocket-engine-powered aircraft that first broke the sound barrier and the hypersonic rocket-powered aircraft X-15 flown by Neil Armstrong, who later became a Nasa astronaut and the first man to set foot on the Moon.