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NASA releases concept images of all-electric X-57 Maxwell airplane in final Mod IV configuration

NASA has released a series of concept images of the all-electric X-57 Maxwell airplane (earlier post), showcasing aspects of its final Mod IV configuration during different flight modes.

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The artist’s concept image shows NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell, flying shortly after takeoff in its final configuration over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. In this configuration, known as Mod IV, X-57’s smaller high-lift motors will activate along the wing’s leading edge, spinning their propellers and providing lift for takeoff and landing.


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X-57 Maxwell flying in cruise mode over NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. In Mod IV test flights, X-57’s high-lift motors will deactivate during cruise mode, and their propeller blades will fold in to the nacelles to reduce drag. The motors will reactivate and use centrifugal force to spin the blades back out to provide necessary lift for landing.


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The X-57 Maxwell sitting in its final configuration in front of a hangar at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. This configuration, known as Mod IV, features a high-aspect ratio wing, relocation of the cruise motors to the wingtips, and 12 smaller high-lift motors with propellers for takeoff and landing.


NASA is making progress toward first flight for the X-57 Maxwell—its first all-electric X-plane, and first piloted X-plane in two decades.

The agency recently ran a series of structural ground tests on the Mod II Maxwell, giving engineers a look at the vehicle’s predicted characteristics during flight. In addition to testing the X-57’s cruise motor controllers, which are critical for providing power to the aircraft’s electric motors, similar ground vibration testing took place on the wing and fuselage. These tests are helping NASA examine the integrity of the component for flight conditions.

NASA took delivery of the Mod II X-57—delivered by Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) of San Luis Obispo, California—in October 2019.

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

Comments

cujet

Electric drive has an interesting advantage, that of nearly silent takeoffs. The fixed pitch props can turn more slowly on takeoff, yet still receive full rated power. Then prop RPM increases as airframe speed increases. This is very unlike piston engines that make full power at only one RPM.

SJC_1

I don't see the need for 12 small motors and props.

cujet

The array of props increase airflow over the wing during takeoff, greatly lowering the speed at which such a small wing can perform.

The original Technam wing has about twice the surface area.

gryf

That's right. The 12 small propellers generate lift over the entire wing and since the wing is much smaller it has less drag. Also, after takeoff the propellers will fold back.
(Reference: X-57 Home:https://www.nasa.gov/specials/X57/small-wing-act-bigger.html)

sd

I think that the propellers on the wing tips are designed to take advantage of the vortex shedding that occurs at the ends of the wings. With the smaller and lighter electric motors, it is easier to place the motors and propellers where they are most effective. Note that with the Eviation Alice, https://www.eviation.co/ , there are also propellers on the wing tips.

SJC_1

Flaps work for landing.

Nick Lyons

Traditionally, putting propellers far from the fuselage creates a hazard should one fail during takeoff--pilot has to manage the turning moment from single engine on one side. I suppose this isn't such a problem with the smaller takeoff/landing motors along the wingspan.

Engineer-Poet

The redundancy of the motors along the wing span suggest that the failure of a tip motor could be offset by over-powering the other props on that wing long enough to land safely.

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