NASA is developing electric-powered flight with the X-57 Maxwell, a unique all-electric aircraft which features 14 propellers along its wing.
Those very small, yet highly efficient motors will produce a tremendous amount of power, but with power comes heat, and too much heat can cause issues for an aircraft. Adding a cooling system to the X-57 Maxwell’s sleek design would add bulk and require design changes that could negatively impact the aircraft’s performance.
To deal with the heat problem, engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center devised a custom-designed “skin,” or nacelle, around the aircraft’s motor electronics to significantly cool them without changing the aircraft’s shape or design. This new cooling nacelle design – the aluminum section seen behind the nose cone in the image – was proven during a recent wind tunnel test where engineers subjected one of the X-57’s motors to various simulated flight conditions.
With testing now complete, the design information will be sent to engineers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center where they continue to work toward the X-57’s first flight.
Image Credit: NASA/ Rami Daud, Alcyon Technical Services
Editor: Robert DiBacco
NASA’s X-57 ‘Maxwell’ will be the first all-electric X-plane and will be flown to validate and demonstrate the benefits that distributed electric propulsion may yield for the future of aviation. Credit NASA