GE, MagniX Win NASA Electric Propulsion Contracts

Credit: NASA

NASA has awarded contracts to GE Aviation and MagniX for the Electric Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) program, which aims to mature megawatt-class electrified aircraft propulsion (EAP) technologies for regional and single-aisle transport aircraft from 2035 onwards.

The contracts, which together are valued at $253.4 million, cover ground and flight-test demonstrations to be conducted over the next five years. First flights of the respective demonstrators are expected to begin in late 2023 or early 2024.

“GE Aviation and MagniX will perform integrated megawatt-class powertrain system ground and flight demonstrations to validate their concepts, and project benefits for future EAP aircraft configurations,” said Gaudy Bezos-O’Connor, EPFD project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. “These demonstrations will identify and retire technical barriers and integration risks. It will also help inform the development of standards and regulations for future EAP systems.”

The single-aisle class demonstrator powertrain, which will be produced by GE under a $179 million contract, is expected to have a total power of around 1.5 megawatts. MagniX, a start-up electric-propulsion developer based in Redmond, Washington, will target development of a 500kW system suitable for a 19-seat regional aircraft under a $74.3 million contract.

NASA’s requirement under EPFD is a specific power for a mild hybrid power train of 1.25 kW/kg—0.5 kW/kg at a minimum—with end-to-end losses of no more than 20%. The targeted mission energy savings through electrification are 4% for a Part 25 commercial aircraft and 10% for a Part 23 regional aircraft. The demonstrators are expected to pave the way for mature electrified power trains for single-aisle airliners that could—at most—generate 2 megawatts total power at 1000 volts up to an altitude capability of 40,000 ft.

Both companies are expected to make use of either an existing flying testbed or one specially developed for the EPFD program. GE plans to flight test its hybrid electric system on a modified Saab 340B aircraft, while Roei Ganzarski, MagniX CEO, tells Aviation Week that “we will have an amazing aircraft but are not sharing yet.”



Guy Norris

Guy is a Senior Editor for Aviation Week, covering technology and propulsion. He is based in Colorado Springs.