NASA has announced that it has taken delivery of its X-57 Maxwell aircraft at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA. The X-57 is the first all-electric experimental aircraft or X-plane, and the first crewed X-plane in two decades. The aircraft was delivered to NASA by Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) on Wednesday, October 2nd.
The aircraft delivered is the first of three configurations as an all-electric aircraft known as Modification II or Mod II. The Mod II configuration replaces the combustion engine on a baseline Tecnam P2006T aircraft with electric cruise motors.
NASA says that the delivery is a major milestone and will allow NASA engineers to begin putting the aircraft through ground tests, followed by taxi tests, and eventually flight tests. NASA notes that while Mod II aircraft has only now been delivered, Mods III and IV are well underway. Those mods will see the new high-aspect-ratio wing added to the aircraft.
NASA’s goal with the X-57 project is to help develop certification standards for electric aircraft markets, including urban air mobility vehicles. NASA plans to share the aircraft’s electric-propulsion-focused design and airworthiness process with regulators and industry. That will advance certification approaches for aircraft using distributed electric propulsion.
NASA also says that the X-57 team is using a “design driver” as a technical challenge to drive lessons learned and best practices. That includes a 500% increase in high-speed cruise efficiency, zero in-flight carbon emissions, and quieter flight. There is no indication of a time frame for when the X-57 might start test flights or when the Mod III and IV aircraft will be delivered. The first steps with the X-57 Mod II will be to prove it airworthy.