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NASA X-Plane Battery Passes Tests

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Old December 15th 17, 06:10 PM posted to rec.aviation.piloting
Larry Dighera
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Default NASA X-Plane Battery Passes Tests

NASA X-Plane Battery Passes Tests

Mary Grady

NASA says its engineers reached a major milestone this week,
successfully testing the battery system that will power the
all-electric X-plane expected to take flight next year. “This was an
extremely critical milestone for the overall project,” said Tom
Rigney, project manager for the X-57 Maxwell
.. “Without a safe battery system, we wouldn’t be able to execute our
objectives. This test truly ensures a safe environment for the pilot
and the test program.” The testing validated that the battery system
can safely power the X-57 for an entire flight profile. The team is
working toward a flight duration of at least 45 minutes to an hour,
NASA spokesman Matt Kamlet told AVweb.

“We exposed the battery to the conditions of an X-57 flight, based on
current expected flight profiles, to make sure the capacity and
thermal conditions stayed within safe limits,” said NASA Glenn’s
Dionne Hernandez-Lugo, battery development lead for the project. “We
were able to see how the battery behaves throughout the flight, as
well as the overall capacity. The battery passed.” The test also
confirmed the battery design’s ability to isolate potential
overheating issues to single battery cells, preventing unsafe
conditions from spreading to the rest of the battery system. The X-57
project aims to demonstrate a significant increase in efficiency at
high-speed cruise compared to aircraft propelled by traditional
systems, NASA says. The technology would result in lower operating
costs, as well as lower carbon emissions.


NASA Receives Tecnam P2006T For X-Plane Research

By Elaine Kauh | July 30, 2016

NASA took delivery this week of a Tecnam P2006T, which will undergo
transformation into an electric-propulsion testbed called the X-57
Maxwell. The Scalable Convergent Electric Propulsion Technology and
Operations Research (SCEPTOR) project
, the latest in NASA’s X-plane experiments, seeks to develop
technologies to make flying quieter, cheaper and emissions-free. Sean
Clarke, one of the leaders of the X-57 project out of NASA Armstrong
in California, was among the presenters during a joint news conference
with Tecnam during AirVenture 2016. Clarke told AVweb during the event
that the test aircraft will undergo a series of modifications and be
ready to fly in early 2018. Experiments with electric motors mounted
on the wingtips will follow, he said. Future plans are to research
flight characteristics with smaller inboard electric motors. The
project was launched with $15 million of funding over three years.

From a research standpoint, electric motors are highly efficient
regardless of size, and they can be installed, removed and rearranged
in various configurations with ease, said Mark Moore, a SCEPTOR
project leader. “It gives us incredible flexibility,” he said. While
the aircraft sent to NASA is strictly for research, Tecnam says the
project’s findings will benefit industry in the future. “Even though
this aircraft will never be a production article, Tecnam is proud to
be a part of expanding our base of knowledge in this new paradigm in
flight,” said Shannon Yeager, director of Tecnam U.S. “The entire
aircraft manufacturing community will benefit from the return of the
X-planes and the new information gained with the X-57.”


NASA X-Plane Project Moves Forward

By Mary Grady | October 29, 2015
Related Articles

Podcast: NASA's All-Electric X-Plane

A group of NASA engineers and private-sector partners working in
California is moving forward with creating an X-Plane demonstrator
they hope will prove the efficiency of using an array of small
electric-powered propellers for general aviation aircraft. "This is a
really important demonstrator for us," NASA's Mark Moore, the leader
of the research team, told AVweb. "There hasn't been a manned NASA
X-plane for about 30 years. This is going to be the first manned
aircraft powered by distributed generation, so it's going to be very
meaningful." Moore said he believes the three-year, $15-million
project will prove that the distributed-electric propulsion system can
achieve up to five times greater efficiency than conventional systems,
with 30 percent lower operating costs.

Moore said a lot has been going on since the project began about a
year ago, including local ground testing at NASA's Armstrong Flight
Research Center in California, detailed design work for the wing and
propellers, and building a custom electric motor. They are just about
to buy a Tecnam 2006T, and they will remove the wing and replace it
with their own wing and motors and an array of small propellers.
"We're really focusing in on distributed electric propulsion as a key
technology," he said. "Every one of us is just incredibly motivated to
make this happen … Seeing these analysis results, you just can't help
but be excited because the changes are so large." Their research so
far is predicting that a series of small motors distributed along the
wing can improve aircraft efficiency by 50 percent, compared to using
a single electric motor as a direct replacement for a reciprocating

Flight testing with the Tecnam is scheduled for September or October
in 2017. Using currently available technology, Moore said he expects
the aircraft will be capable of about a 200-nm range. "The batteries
are constraining the practicality of this technology," he said. "But
it seems credible that within five to seven years batteries will be
about twice as good as what we're using now." And even a 200-nm range
could make the technology useful for many operators, he said. Commuter
airline Cape Air, for example, operates a fleet of Cessna 402s on
routes shorter than 220 nm.

Eventually, Moore said, he hopes to expand the project to develop VTOL
aircraft, which he says would maximize the technology's potential for
efficiency and usefulness. "That's where things get really exciting,"
he said. Small VTOL aircraft, with two to four seats, using this
technology could accomplish the same tasks as a helicopter, with 10
times the efficiency. "They could make helicopters irrelevant and
completely obsolete," he said.

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