Sep 5, 2018 | By Thomas

ArianeGroup, the space-launchers joint-venture between Airbus and Safran and the team in charge of the Ariane 6 project, on Sept. 4 awarded a contract to its Swedish supplier GKN Aerospace for turbines of re-usable rocket engine demonstrator, part of Prometheus project.

Image credit: ESA

GKN Aerospace’s space business unit, in Trollhättan, Sweden will develop and manufacture two full-scale turbines for the Prometheus low-cost re-usable rocket engine demonstrator on liquid oxygen and methane propellants. Prometheus is an European Space Agency (ESA) funded program which is set to power Europe’s future launchers, with ArianeGroup as the Prime Contractor.

The target price for a Prometheus engine is 1 million euros, one-tenth the cost of the Ariane 5’s Vulcain 2 engine. The turbines will generate power for the methane fuel system, with the first turbine to be delivered at the end of 2019.

GKN Aerospace, which has been active in the Ariane programme from its inception in 1974, will use cutting-edge additive manufacturing technology to reduce number of turbine parts from more than 100 to two. Additive manufacturing of engine parts enables faster production, helping lower costs and lead times. The technology will enable the engine to meet temperature, pressure and rotational speed criteria. This development of the turbines will also enable engineers to develop designs and AM processes for future higher loaded critical components.

GKN Aerospace’s Trollhättan centre has made over 1,000 combustion chambers and nozzles as well as over 250 turbines for Ariane rockets to date. Sébastien Aknouche, vice president and general manager, services and special products engine systems said, “We are proud to participate in the Prometheus project and to make a technological contribution to this key European space project. 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 demonstrating 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.”

Prometheus casing prototype. Image credit: ESA

ArianeGroup signed a first contract with ESA to develop the Prometheus demonstrator in June 2017, which would be developed in part using 3D printing technology and is designed to run on liquid oxygen and methane. In December 2017 ESA signed a €75M (US$88m) contract with ArianeGroup for next phase of 3D printed Prometheus demonstrator engine to be ground tested in November 2020. The main goal was to build an engine that will be at least ten times cheaper than current engines, such as the Vulcain 2, which dates back to 2005 and costs around 10 million Euros. The ESA plans for versions of Prometheus to power European launchers by 2030.

The new approach involves new design and manufacturing workflows as well as different rocket technology. The development process for the demonstrator engine will see a switch from the traditional Ariane propellant, which is a combination of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, to a new combination of liquid oxygen and methane. The Prometheus LOx-methane engine project will also make use of an unprecedented level of digitilization for engine control and diagnostics. It will also see the introduction of 3D printing, in a connected factory environment, for its prototyping and final production process.

"By 2020, technical knowledge of liquid oxygen–methane propulsion gained through the Prometheus project will allow fast and informed decisions to be made on useful applications," ESA said. "Prometheus provides a nominal 1 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."



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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