Rolls-Royce unveils the largest aircraft engine testing facility in the world

Jan 15, 2021

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The biggest and most technologically advanced aerospace engine testing facility has completed its first test run. Rolls-Royce announced on Thursday that its Testbed 80 has debuted after almost three years in development.

Situated in Derby in the heart of England, the new testbed at Rolls-Royce’s Midlands campus will officially open in the coming months. At a whopping 7,500 square meters, the space is larger than a Premiership soccer pitch.

The testbed will be used to put aircraft engines through a range of environments and tests to determine issues and efficiency before they’re installed on aircraft. This week, Rolls-Royce first tested one of its Trent XWB engines in Testbed 80, the same engine that powers variants of the Airbus A350 aircraft.

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(Photo courtesy of Rolls Royce)

“Today is an important landmark in our journey towards a more sustainable future for aerospace and aviation,” Rolls-Royce President of Civil Aerospace Chris Cholerton said in a statement. “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.”

As well as the Trent XWB and Trent 1000 engines, the new testbed has the capacity to test engines of up to 155klbf thrust — that’s enough to launch a Boeing 747 on one single engine. In the future, this will include more efficient versions, such as the UltraFan demonstrator and future hybrid or all-electric engines.

(Photo courtesy of Rolls Royce)

Testbed 80 is equipped with a 140,000-litre fuel tank — that’s enough to fill an average car almost 3,000 times. It’s been designed to work with a variety of different fuels, including Sustainable Aviation Fuels, in line with Rolls-Royce’s decarbonization strategy.

Testbed 80 also houses an intricate web of data systems that can analyze more than 10,000 different aspects of an engine test. Scientists use this information as well as the detection of the tiniest vibrations — up to as many as 200,000 samples per second — and a powerful X-ray machine to understand exactly how the engines behave in a range of different conditions.

The information gathered from the tests done in Testbed 80 will also provide vital insights that can be used for future engine improvements.

The Testbed 80 project took Rolls-Royce nearly three years and £90 million (about $123 million) to complete.

Featured photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce

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