UK-based global major industrial technology group Rolls-Royce has functionally inaugurated its new leading edge engine testbed by successfully completing the first engine run in it (the official opening will take place later). The engine used to inaugurate the testbed was a Trent XWB, which was developed to power Airbus’ A350 XWB family of widebody airliners.
The new facility, designated Testbed 80, is located in Derby, in England, and took three years to construct, at a cost of £90-million. It has an internal area of 7 500 m2 (greater than that of an English Premier League football pitch) and is the largest and “smartest” indoor aerospace engine testbed in the world.
“[January 14] is an important landmark in our journey towards a more sustainable future for aerospace and aviation,” affirmed Rolls-Royce civil aerospace president Chris Cholerton. “Testbed 80 will not only test engines such as the Trent XWB – the world’s most efficient aero-engine in service – but also the engines and propulsion systems of the future, which will see us take another step towards decarbonisation. It’s great that the first engine test has been a success and we are looking forward to the official opening of the facility in the coming months.”
Testbed 80 has data systems that are more complex and capable than those in any other Rolls-Royce testbed. These new systems can deliver data “in the fastest time” straight to secure cloud data storage and, for the first time, linked through that to the company’s analytical models and engineers. The sensor network in the new testbed can collect data on more than 10 000 different engine parameters at a rate of up to 200 000 samples per second. Even the tiniest vibrations can be detected.
One of the sensor systems in Testbed 80 is a powerful X-ray machine that can take 30 images per second, which are also sent directly to the secure cloud and which can be accessed by engineers across the world. “We’re the only engine manufacturer in the world to X-ray our engines while they are running,” pointed out Rolls-Royce. “This unique test allows us to inspect engines to minute levels of detail and obtain precise levels of data.”
The testbed is also equipped with a 140 000 l fuel tank capable of holding different types of fuel, including sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). This SAF capability reflects the company’s commitment to scaling-up the use of such fuels, which can be used as a ‘drop-in’ fuel in its existing engines.
“Testbed 80 has been designed to test a range of today’s engines, including the Trent XWB and Trent 1000, but will have the capability to test the UltraFan demonstrator, our blueprint for the next generation of even more efficient engines, as well as the hybrid or all-electric flight systems of the future,” reported Rolls-Royce. “The versatility of the testbed means it is able to accommodate engines of all sizes up to [70.31 tonnes-force] thrust – that’s enough power to launch a Boeing 747 with one (huge) engine.”
The development of some of the technologies used in Testbed 80, specifically those needed to support the development of the UltraFan, was supported by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), a UK public private partnership. This support was provided under the ATI’s Proving Advanced Concept Engine project.