It’s one small step for Archer Aviation, one giant leap for air transportation.
The Californian outfit, known for designing pioneering electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, just signed a Space Act Agreement with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that is designed to push the entire industry forward.
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“We’re extremely proud to partner with NASA, who has pioneered the eVTOL industry over the last three-plus decades, in support of our collective mission to ensure U.S. leadership in aerospace continues for decades to come,” Archer’s founder and CEO Adam Goldstein said in a statement.
The collaboration will kick off with a project focused on developing high-performance battery cells for eVTOL aircraft and potentially spacecraft. Essentially, Archer is planning to deliver a battery pack for its Midnight aircraft that NASA will then test. The results will be shared publicly to advance battery technology on a broader scale. Archer says that improving battery tech will be a key factor in ensuring the mass production and adoption of electric aviation.
The Midnight eVTOL has a total of six battery packs, with each one featuring more than 1,000 cylindrical cells. The battery pack will be manufactured in San Jose, with the cells coming from Molicel in Taiwan. NASA and Archer will be testing the safety, energy capabilities, and power performance of the cylindrical cells. The tests, which will be carried out using a high-speed X-ray at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), will also show how the cells function during extreme conditions.
The cells are the basis of the proprietary electric powertrain system aboard Midnight. Equipped with 12 rotors and two electric engines, the air taxi is designed to fly 20-mile back-to-back trips, with 10-minute charging sessions in between. (It can fly up to 100 miles, with a top speed of 150 mph.) Cruising at an altitude of 2,000 feet, the eVTOL makes only 45 decibels of noise, making it 1,000 times quieter than a conventional helicopter. It can also carry one pilot and four passengers, with a payload capacity of more than 1,000 pounds.
“Many countries around the world are challenging the U.S. in this new era of flight and our country is at risk of losing its global leadership position unless we work together, government and industry, to ensure we seize the moment and pioneer this new era of aviation technology, which stands to benefit all Americans,” adds Goldstein.
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