NASA Freely Shares X57 Lessons

Dean Sigler Batteries, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

NASA and several partner firms have been working on the X-57 Maxwell electric propulsion demonstrator for the past several years.  It hasn’t been as easy as it looked at first.  Encouragingly, NASA is sharing some of the hard lessons it has learned in the process, much like Elon Musk sharing many of his patents with the world. One of the hardest lessons involved the multiple battery packs, originally planned to be off-the-shelf units.  A December 2016 test resulted in a thermal runaway, a situation in which one cell that overheats can self-destruct and cause adjacent cells to follow suit.  This, as we’ve seen in Dreamliner incidents, can be dangerous and potentially deadly.  Such fires are exceedingly well reported, with any Tesla …

Zunum Designs Electric Power Trains with a Software Approach

Dean Sigler Electric Powerplants, Hybrid Aircraft, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

Zunum is a startup electric airliner firm, helmed by former leaders in aerospace, electronics and software companies.  It’s no surprise, then, to see their design and manufacturing efforts following a path that blends those disciplines. Aviation Week reports Zunum just received an $800,000 matching grant from Washington State’s Clean Energy Fund, “its size proportionate to funding already raised from Boeing HorizonX and JetBlue Technology Ventures.”  It’s also the second largest of five such awards.  Zunum CEO Ashish Kumar describes the grant as, “a significant amount, a significant endorsement and a significant investment at a national level in electric aviation” that “supplements funds from out-of-state sources and will go toward prototype building.” Zunum presses forward on an aggressive schedule, with plans to certify its …

NASA’s Mark Moore Joins Uber

Dean Sigler Announcements, Batteries, Electric Aircraft Components, Electric Powerplants, Sustainable Aviation 0 Comments

You must really be somebody when Fortune Magazine notices you’re taking a new job.  Mark Moore is indeed somebody, and remarkably self-confident in leaving a 30-year NASA career to sign on to a startup – even if it is run by Uber.  He will be Director of Aviation for the on-demand ride company, tackling the problems inherent in taking such services into the third dimension. His decade-long work in electric propulsion for aircraft has led him to conceive of some interesting possibilities for Personal Air Vehicles, a term he engaged early.  His Puffin vertical takeoff and landing vehicle, for instance, seemed to use elements of Lockheed’s XFV-1 Pogo and Aerovironment’s Sky Tote – both tail sitters.  Ben Rich’s book, Skunk …