Electric Aircraft Test Cell Launched for Propulsion Trials

Set to enable testing on fan and propeller-based propulsion systems, the Wright Electric Aircraft Engine Test Cell (WEAETC) is designed to characterize the performance of megawatt-class electric aircraft propulsion systems By William Mackenzie / 30 Apr 2024
Electric Aircraft Test Cell Launched for Propulsion Trials
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Wright Electric, a specialist in electric propulsion for large commercial aircraft, has launched its Wright Electric Aircraft Engine Test Cell (WEAETC). 

The WEAETC is designed to characterize the performance of megawatt-class electric aircraft propulsion systems, and will enable testing on fan- and propeller-based propulsion systems.

The testing process will unfold in two key phases. Initially, Wright will conduct ground testing utilizing its cutting-edge 2 MW Wright-1A motor. Initial tests will use the LF507-1F fan module and the C-130 propeller. 

Subsequently, Wright will embark on the second phase using its new motor, the WM2500, capable of delivering up to 2.5 MW of power and equipped with an integrated custom drive. This motor has been developed under the ARPA-E ASCEND program.

Through rigorous testing and analysis at the WEAETC, Wright aims to validate the thermal and dynamic stability of its Electric Propulsion Unit (EPU), which is notably quieter than conventional engines. This EPU will then be installed under the wing and flight tested, paving the way for advancements in electrification technologies.

The Wright Electric Mission

Founded in 2016, Wright’s goal is to decarbonize the aerospace industry. The company works with leading groups such as NASA, Y Combinator, The US Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, and the US Department of Defense.

Wright builds power dense-electric motors and energy-dense batteries for aerospace and defense applications. The company recently tested its industry-leading electric motor to over 1 megawatt, and is planning for altitude testing at the NASA Electric Aircraft Testbed (NEAT). 

Also, earlier this year, Wright was selected to join the ARPA-E Pioneering Railroad, Oceanic and Plane Electrification with 1K energy storage systems (PROPEL-1K) program, which aims to develop emission-free, high-energy, and high-power energy storage solutions to electrify domestic aircraft, railroads, and ships.

Wright assert that achieving 1 Megawatt of shaft power is an important step in reaching the company’s goal of making all single-aisle flights under 800 miles zero emissions. Commercial class airplanes need megawatt-sized propulsion systems for a full passenger load take off.

Peter Kurowski, Propulsion Lead at Wright, commented; “Using a proven fan module significantly reduces the risk of the test campaign and lets us directly compare the acoustic profile and thermal signature of the electric propulsion unit and its classical turbofan version. The successful ground test campaign will open the doors to a flight test.”

Wright’s partners in this effort include ARPA-E, Rzeszow University of Technology, CFS Aero, Avalon Aerospace, and Executive Jet Support. 

Posted by William Mackenzie Connect & Contact