Local tech company helps NASA with new all-electric aircraft

Marion

FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Over three years, local tech company TMC has developed software for NASA’s new electric aircraft.

NASA’s all-electric X-57 Maxwell aircraft undergoes high voltage ground testing at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. A goal of the X-57 project is to help the Federal Aviation Administration set certification standards for emerging electric aircraft markets.

The X-57 ‘Maxwell’ is an all electric aircraft that recently passed a ground test at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. The software that runs the plane is made by TMC Senior Systems Engineer Steve Yokum.

“In any system today, software is just vital to everything. It’s very fundamental to an aircraft,” Yokum said. “In an all-electric aircraft, software is controlling the motor, software verifying that the batteries aren’t overheating. It’s reporting status to the pilot.”

The X-57 is NASA’s first all-electric experimental aircraft, and it is one that relies almost entirely on the software that goes through a lot of testing.

“After Challenger, NASA decided that they needed to have special testing and validation on any kind of software that involves human beings and their equipment,” Wade Linger, president of TMC, said.

All for an all-electric aircraft that could help the environment.

“We want to get away from the dependence on the fossil fuels, so getting batteries in an aircraft is just a logical next step,” Yokum said.

It is something that is the first of its kind—but not the last.

“It’s always good to be in on the ground floor with something,” Linger said. “What Steve is doing with this airplane and all the systems that go into it will have applicability to other types of technologies as it comes along.”

The X-57’s next step is another ground test and then a manned flight, which TMC said will happen sometime this summer.

See more X-57 pictures on NASA’s website.

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