GKN Aerospace is manufacturing the turbines, which will generate power for the methane fuel system, at the company’s highly automated engine systems center of excellence, and is slated to deliver the first turbine at the end of 2019.
The new turbine with all its challenging loads -- including very high pressure, high speeds, and high temperatures -- incorporates the latest AM technologies with higher performance, lower lead times, and significant cost reduction, company officials say. It also supports the next step in AM, they say: the use of AM technology for future higher-loaded critical components in terms of pressure, temperature, and rotational speed.
“With the support of the Swedish National Space Agency, ESA and ArianeGroup we are proud to participate in the Prometheus project and to make a technological contribution to this key European space project,” says Sébastien Aknouche, vice president and general manager, services and special products engine systems at GKN Aerospace. “This allows us, together with our suppliers, to work with our customer to develop and demonstrate advanced AM technologies in operation and at full scale.
“We look forward to demonstrate the benefits and the added value in weight and cost reduction, and in faster production rates. These factors, along with our established expertise in space turbines, have resulted in the award of this engine turbine contract,” Aknouche says.
GKN Aerospace’s space business unit in Trollhättan, Sweden, has been active in the Ariane program from its inception in 1974 until the current Ariane 6 partnership, and has made over 1,000 combustion chambers and nozzles as well as over 250 turbines for the Ariane rocket to date. Today it is the European center of excellence for turbines and metallic nozzles, having contributed to the program at every stage from initial research and development through cooperation with academia to the serial production.
The Prometheus reusable rocket engine uses liquid oxygen–methane propellants and is set to power Europe’s future launchers. Prometheus demonstrates the systematic application of an extreme design-to-cost approach, new propellant, and innovative manufacturing technologies, officials say. It lowers costs to a tenth of those for Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2 engine.
Prometheus casing prototype
Additive layer-by-layer manufacturing of engine parts enables faster production, with fewer parts. Key characteristics of Prometheus include a computer system enabling real-time adjustment and immediate diagnosis for potential reusability.
Methane propellant is widely available and brings high-efficiency, standardization, and operational simplicity, making it a perfect candidate for a reusable booster engine demonstration, officials say. By 2020, technical knowledge of liquid oxygen–methane propulsion gained through the Prometheus project will enable fast and informed decisions to be made on useful applications, they predict.
Prometheus provides a nominal 1 meganewton (MN) of variable thrust, is suitable for first- and second-stage applications, and is reignitable. It will propel a range of next-generation launchers, including future evolutions of Ariane 6.
Prometheus is a European Space Agency (ESA)-funded program for a low-cost, re-usable rocket engine demonstrator on methane propellant. ESA and ArianeGroup signed a contract in Dec. 2017 to develop a full-scale demonstrator to be ground tested in November 2020. ArianeGroup serves as the prime contractor.
The Prometheus contract, worth €75 million, was signed by ESA Director of Space Transportation Daniel Neuenschwander and ArianeGroup CEO Alain Charmeau at ESA headquarters in Paris in the presence of ESA Director General Jan Wörner. The project is part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme.
“Prometheus will power Europe's future launchers, forging a path of continuous improvement in competitiveness,” Neuenschwander says.
GKN Aerospace, a multi-technology tier 1 aerospace supplier, develops, builds, and supplies an extensive range of advanced aerospace systems, components, and technologies for use in aircraft ranging from helicopters and business jets to the most used single-aisle aircraft and the largest passenger planes in the world. Lightweight composites, additive manufacturing, innovative engine systems, and smart transparencies help to reduce emissions and weight on the aircraft and enhance passenger comfort. GKN Aerospace provides aerostructures, engine systems, transparencies, and wiring systems and operates in 14 countries at 51 manufacturing locations employing approximately 17,000 people.
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