NASA and Empirical Systems Aerospace, a San Luis Obispo, California-based small business, have unveiled an experimental all-electric aircraft, called X-57 Maxwell, and plan to conduct a maiden test flight of the plane in 2023.
ESAero developed the experimental plane through a number of NASA awards it secured under the space agency’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer program and partnerships with other small enterprises that acted as subcontractors on the X-57 project, NASA said Thursday.
Joby Aviation, Electric Power Systems, Sierra Technical Services and TMC Technologies became industry partners of ESAero, which provided air vehicle and all-electric propulsion design, manufacturing, analysis, diagnostic tools, integration, ground testing and software modeling support for the aircraft as the project’s prime contractor.
“NASA’s work with the private sector on this project has brought a lot of transparency to the industry, and the companies have been able to grow themselves,” said Starr Ginn, advanced air mobility lead strategist at NASA.
“That’s a big part of SBIRs. The government takes on the high-risk ideas and helps mature them to where they become a viable product for industry,” added Ginn.
NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and the agency’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland participated in the electric aircraft development effort.