A space news from Inhabitat. NASA is preparing to test their experimental propulsion technology with their new zero-emission airplane which they officially designated as X-57 or Maxwell. The airplane’s 14 electric motors turn a series of propellers fitted in the wings, which is an update to their previous designs. X-57 will be built by modifying an existing aircraft, an Italian-designed Tecnam P2006T twin-engine light aircraft. Once the plane is completed, NASA plans to use in validating the idea that distributing electric power across a number of motors integrated with an aircraft will result in better energy efficiency.
The agency’s announcement will be the first step in a new wave of developments for the agency and the industry. Aviation makes up for 12% of global carbon emissions every year, thus any innovations in emissions-free and energy efficient transportation will have a far-reaching impact. Maxwell will be the first aircraft of its kind using 12 electric motors on the plane’s wing leading edge to be used for take offs and landings. It also uses one large motor on each wing tip to be used at cruise altitude. In theory, the plane will be able to travel at a cruising speed around 175 mph.
“X” is the name designation given to any experimental aircraft by the United States Air Force and the number 57 is the designated actual number of the plane since X-1, thus Maxwell is the 57th experimental plane of NASA. The name “Maxwell” was chosen to honour James Clerk Maxwell, who is a 19th century Scottish physicist who did radical work in electromagnetism. The project is a big deal for aviation’s future as Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator highlighted the agency’s first X-plane designation in a decade.
Image credit: Inhabitat