Rolls-Royce makes first test run on world’s largest testbed

Rolls-Royce, ALECSys /

The British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce completed the first engine run at its largest indoor aerospace testbed which the company plans to officially open in the coming months.

Rolls-Royce reached the next milestone in its new project of developing the largest indoor aerospace testbed. The company conducted its first run on the Trent XWB engine at Testbed 80, a testing facility in Derby, the UK, on January 14, 2021. The new project has been under construction for almost three years and represents a £90 million investment.

The massive facility, which was designed to test large powerful aircraft engines, includes some of the most advanced testing technology. According to the recent Rolls-Royce’s statement, the internal area of Testbed 80, covering 7,500 square-meters, makes the facility larger than a Premiership football pitch (the area of 7,140 square-meters). 

Having used 3,128 tonnes of steel and 27,000 cubic meters of concrete, enough to fill eleven Olympic-sized swimming pools for the testbed construction, Rolls-Royce stated that the new facility would be the largest indoor aerospace testbed in the world.

“Testbed 80 will not only test engines such as the Trent XWB […] but also the engines and propulsion systems of the future, which will see us take another step towards decarbonization. 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,” quoted Chris Cholerton, the President of Rolls-Royce.

Testbed 80 has been designed to test a range of plane engines, including the Trent XWB and the Trent 1000. It will also have the capability to test the UltraFan demonstrator as well as hybrid or all-electric flight systems. The data systems inside the new testbed will be able to collect data from more than 10,000 different parameters on an engine, using an intricate web of sensors that detect “even the tiniest vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second“, reads the Rolls-Royce statement.

As for now, Rolls-Royce is the only engine manufacturer that X-rays its engines while they are running to obtain highly precise data. The X-Ray machine installed in Testbed 80 will be capable of capturing 30 images per second and will put the data directly to a secure cloud for engineers to analyze.

“The versatility of the testbed means it is able to accommodate engines of all sizes up to 155klbf thrust – that’s enough power to launch a Boeing 747 with one (huge) engine,“ stated the engine manufacturer.

Rolls-Royce expects to officially launch the Testbed 80 in 2021. 

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