Engine maker Rolls-Royce recently officially opened a brand-new indoor testbed for the future generation of powerplants. Called Testbed 80 and situated at its Derby headquarters, the facility will be the home of UltraFan when the demonstrator starts ground testing in 2022. The new Rolls-Royce testbed is ready for UltraFan.
The 7.500 square meter Testbed 80 was opened on May 27. It has cost £90 million and has the size of a UK Premiership football pitch. It is equipped with the latest in technology and able to check the behavior and over 10.000 parameters of engines on test. This includes an X-ray camera that can produce thirty images per second for analyses. For calibration of the testbed, a Trent XWB was used in January.
The XWB and Trent 1000 will continue to be tested, as Rolls-Royce tries to improve its efficiency or introduces new features. New ‘hardware’ includes the use of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). Testbed 80 has a 140.000-liter fuel tank for testing different types of fuel. The facility also has the capability to test the future generation of hybrid or all-electric engines.
UltraFan will become a frequent visitor to Testbed 80 as it starts its ground testing program. Originally, this was planned to begin this year, but Rolls-Royce has taken more time to prepare the demonstrator. The first engine, called UF001, is in assembly since March at the DemoWorks facility in Derby and will be completed by the end of the year. GKN Aerospace Sweden delivered the first Intermediate Compressor Case to R-R in May. On its first test, Rolls plans to run UltraFan on 100-percent SAF.
No customer yet for UltraFan
UltraFan is Rolls-Royce’s first turbofan with a powered gearbox that optimizes the speed of the 140-inch fan with carbon-titanium blades. The core of the engine includes technology developed for the Advance 3 program, while the combustor of the ALECSys program is ‘lean’ to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Ceramic matrix composites are used for the High-Pressure Turbine. Combined, UltraFan will be 25 percent more fuel-efficient than the first generation of Trent engines.
So far, UltraFan hasn’t found itself an airliner. It was offered to Boeing for the New Mid-market Aircraft but Rolls-Royce dropped out of the project in February 2019 as the schedule became too tight. The NMA has been frozen as Boeing reviews its future aircraft policy, which has given Rolls the opportunity to offer UltraFan once again when the US airframer has made up its mind.
The first AE2100 hybrid-electric system is under test since recently. (Rolls-Royce)
On a different but also updated testbed in Bristol, Rolls-Royce has recently started testing the first elements of a hybrid-electric power and propulsion system. These include controls and a thermal management system, supported by a system integration generator.
The AE2100 engine is part of the Power Generation System 1 program that develops a 2.5-megawatt system for use on future regional aircraft. Other components, the generator, and the 3.000-volt power electronics system, are currently tested on a testbed in Trondheim (Norway), but will be mated to the PGS1 system later this year.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.