NASA Completes Electric X-Plane Wing Tests


NASA has successfully completed testing of a new high-aspect ratio wing for its X-57 Maxwell all-electric research aircraft. The goal of the wing tests, which took place at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, was to “calibrate installed strain gauges for real-time loads monitoring and to verify the wing has met design specifications.”

The X-57 Maxwell—a modified Tecnam P2006T—has been undergoing a series of phased modifications (“Mods”) in preparation for the aircraft’s first flight. The Mod III version of the new wing allows the electric motors to be repositioned to the wingtips while the Mod IV design will include 12 additional smaller motors. As previously reported by AVweb, the wing was delivered by contractor Empirical Systems Aerospace (ESAero) last June.

At Armstrong, the Mod III/IV wing underwent structural load tests, evaluation of control surface freedom, weight and balance measurements, and ground vibration testing. Once testing was complete, an ultrasonic inspection was conducted to verify the wing’s condition. Next, the wing will be shipped back to ESAero for integration with a “nearly identical” P2006T fuselage in preparation for its eventual use on the Maxwell. According to NASA, the X-57 is “intended to demonstrate the benefits electric propulsion may have for efficiency, noise and emissions.”

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “intended to demonstrate the benefits electric propulsion may have for efficiency, noise and emissions.”

    If you are testing electric propulsion efficiencies then test electric propulsion efficiencies.
    That kind of testing is best done ON A GROUND VEHICLE where you don’t need to worry about all the complexities of flight.
    For example, the entire cost of developing and testing a new wing structure could have been avoided.
    Am I missing something?

  2. You’re missing the point that NASA has money to spend and people to keep employed, Mark. The fact that you’re using logic doesn’t apply here. And don’t forget that very long pointy thing that’ll need a camera to help the pilot to land … to test supersonic flight that’s already been researched … by THEM !!

    • This is nuts; a waste of tax money and talent and time.
      If NASA would simply Google “electric drag racing” then they can get all the data they need on efficiencies and power and noise and heat and vibration levels for high power electric vehicles. NASA is a decade behind…

  3. I think distributed propulsion is a concept worthy of some flight testing. For example, power and control can be combined. You don’t need ailerons. Just run the motors on one side harder than the other. No adverse yaw and no aileron gap to seal. Also, the wing becomes a different structure if it isn’t a fuel tank and instead needs compartments for batteries and internal wire bundles.