NASA’s first all-electric X-plane completed telemetry signal testing

Telemetry testing begins on the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, as the operations crew at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center records the results.
Telemetry testing begins on the X-57 Maxwell, NASA’s first all-electric X-plane, as the operations crew at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center records the results. Credit: NASA

The experts from the U.S. space agency NASA have tested the telemetry equipment of the demonstrator of the 14-engine all-electric X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell. These tests successfully demonstrated the aircraft’s ability to transmit its telemetry signal, allowing the team the capability to track mission-critical data during flight.

This round of ground testing was conducted at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. The X-57’s functional ground testing stage is continuously progressing, which is a necessary step toward taxi and flight tests.

In addition to confirming the ability of the X-57 aircraft to transmit speed, altitude, direction, and location to teams on the ground, telemetry testing also confirms the ability to transmit mission-critical-data, such as voltage, power consumption, and structural integrity. X-57’s goal is to help set certification standards for emerging electric aircraft markets.

NASA engineers put the X-57 Maxwell through its initial telemetry tests.
NASA engineers put the X-57 Maxwell through its initial telemetry tests. Credit: NASA

The testing indicated no major anomalies in the X-plane’s ability to transmit data. “This checkout verifies that we are operating at the right specifications,” said X-57 Flight Systems Lead Yohan Lin. “The next step will be functional testing of the cruise motors at high voltage, and we’ll be monitoring certain critical parameters using this telemetry system.”

The first flight of the X-57 Maxwell, which is a converted Tecnam P2006T aircraft, should take place before the end of fiscal 2020.

The assembly of the X-57 has been conducted by NASA since 2016; since then, the project is implemented sequentially in several stages. At the first stage, the engines and fuel system were dismantled with the P2006T; electric cruise motor was mounted with controllers, batteries, and new cockpit displays. At the second stage, two electric motors with three-bladed propellers were installed on the two-seat aircraft. Motors were installed in regular places of piston engines.

Later, the aircraft will replace the standard wing with a longer elongation wing with the motors protecting it from low-speed stalls. Ultimately, NASA plans to get an electric aircraft with 14 electric motors, 12 of which will be located on the leading edge of the wing, and two larger and more powerful ones at its ends. Small motors will work during maneuvering, takeoff, and landing, while more powerful ones will fly at cruising speed.