Propulsion Systems: Basic Concepts

The operation of a propulsion system may be viewed simply as shown below. A fluid enters the system at speed V0 with a mass flow of dm/dt. It exits at speed Ve, and mass is added to the outflow at a rate dmf/dt. The force exerted by this system includes the rate of change of momentum through the system and a pressure term:

This equation for thrust holds for systems ranging from chemical and electric rockets to ramjets, turbojets, and propeller-driven aircraft.

Engine Types
Rockets
The expression is simplest in the case of a rocket operating outside the atmosphere. In this case, the thrust is simply given by: where Ve is the exit velocity of the exhaust flow. The exhaust gases may be the byproducts of the rocket fuel combustion, or just unburned expanded gas, or any other mass. In the case of electric rocket propulsion, small droplets of Mercury or other heavy material are accelerated in an electric field to produce thrust. The fuel (or other mass) flow for a given thrust is minimized by achieving high exit velocities. Typical values of exit velocity are 3000 to 4000 m/s (10000-13000 ft/sec) for liquid propellant rockets. There is a large advantage to be gained if one does not have to carry all of the mass used to generate thrust. This can be seen by examining the total energy required to produce the change in momentum. The rate of change of energy is given by:

Thus, to produce the most thrust with the least energy consumption, it is best to do so with a large value of dm/dt and a small change in U. This is because the energy required varies with U2 while the momentum change is linear in U. This basic principal applies to

many systems. It is why helicopters have large diameter rotors, wings need large spans, and propellers are more efficient than jets at low speeds. This concept serves to distinguish the several types of propulsion systems, as discussed in the following sections.

Ramjets
Ambient air can be used, not only to provide oxidizer for burning fuel, but also as a source of mass. This is done most simply in the ramjet engine. The ramjet has no moving parts. High speed air enters the inlet, is compressed as it is slowed down, is mixed with fuel and burned in the combustion chamber, and is finally expanded and ejected through the nozzle. For the combustion process to be efficient, the air most be compressed sufficiently. This is possible only when the freestream Mach number exceeds about 3, and so ramjets have been practical for only a few missile applications. A hybrid engine, part turbojet, part ramjet, was also used on the SR-71 high speed reconnaissance aircraft and is a topic of current research interest for several possible hypersonic applications.

Turbojets
When additional compression is required of the intake air, a separate compressor may be added to the ramjet as shown in the figure below. A single-stage centrifugal compressor was used until about 1953. Such a compressor could produce an increase in total pressure

of about 4. More modern axial compressors can produce overall pressure ratios (OPR) of about 8.5 with a single stage and by including several stages of compression, pressure ratios of 13 have been achieved on turbojet engines. For the turbofan designs discussed in the next section, the multi-stage compressors achieve pressure ratios of 25-30, enabling efficient operation at subsonic speeds. In order to power the compressor, a windmill is placed in the engine exhaust-in principal that is what the turbine stage does. The turbine is located downstream of the combustor and is connected to the compressor blades with a shaft. It extracts power from the flow in the same way that a windmill extracts power.

Turbofans
Increased efficiency at low speeds requires that the mass of air affected by the engine be increased. However, for a given rate of fuel burned, there is a corresponding mass of air that should be mixed with the fuel and one cannot simply force more air through the combustor. Instead, one may route some of the air around the combustor and turbine, and so bypass the engine core. Engines are characterized by their bypass ratio (BPR), the ratio of mass flux bypassing the combustor and turbine to the mass flux through the core. Engines with bypass ratios of 0 are called straight jets or sometimes turbojets. Engines with bypass ratios of 1 to 2 are generally termed low bypass ratio turbofans. High bypass turbofans found on most current transport aircraft have BPR's of 5-8. It is sometimes necessary to drive the first few stages of the compressor (fan) at a slower speed than the high pressure stages, so twin-spool engines or even triple spool engines (three separate shafts from turbine to compressor stages) are common. Gearing between the turbine and fan stages is also possible to provide more optimal fan performance. More detail is shown in the figures on the following pages.

The figure below shows a Pratt and Whitney 4084 engine used on the 777. The diameter of this 84,000 lb thrust engine with nacelle is only somewhat smaller than the diameter of

a 717.

Turboprops
When the bypass ratio is increased to 10-20 for very efficient low speed performance, the weight and wetted area of the fan shroud (inlet) become large, and at some point it makes sense to eliminate it altogether. The fan then becomes a propeller and the engine is called a turboprop. Turboprop engines provide efficient power from low speeds up to as high as M=0.8 with bypass ratios of 50-100.

Advanced Turboprops and Ultra-high Bypass Ratio Turbofans
One can increase the efficiency of turbofans from their current values of 35% - 40% to values close to 45% by further increasing the bypass ratio. Advanced designs with bypass ratios of 12-25 are sometimes termed advanced ducted propellers or ADP's. Although the propulsive efficiency of such designs is very high, they are often less desirable than the engines with more moderate bypass ratios. This is due to the difficulties of installing these very large diameter engines, especially on low-wing configurations, and on the weight and drag penalties associated with the large duct.

An unusual ADP with the fan located aft and attached directly to the turbine. Note the stator vanes in both turbine and fan sections to reduce swirl losses.

A counter-rotating prop-fan. At some value of bypass ratio, the advantages associated

with the duct are overwhelmed by the weight and drag of the duct itself. Bypass ratio 50, ductless propfans such as the one shown here have been proposed for aircraft that fly up to Mach 0.8.

Propellers / Piston Engines
It is possible, of course, to power the propeller by any available means, from turbine to piston engine, electric motor to rotary engine, rubber bands to human muscle. In many of these cases, the bypass ratio is infinite. Very high efficiency especially at low speeds is possible, although as the propeller diameter is increased, installation issues become more severe.

Engines for Supersonic Aircraft
The following discussion from Boeing describes the recent thrust of engine development work for the high speed civil transport (HSCT). Considerable effort has been devoted to improvement of engine specific fuel consumption (SFC) at subsonic conditions over the past 20 years. The original U.S. SST had very poor subsonic SFC. High subsonic SFC penalizes the mission performance by reducing the efficiency during subsonic mission legs and by requiring larger amounts of reserve fuel. The key to good subsonic and supersonic SFC is a variable-cycle engine. The major objective for a future HSCT application is to provide some degree of engine cycle variability that will not significantly increase the cost, the maintenance requirements, or the overall complexity of the engine. The variable-cycle engine must have a good economic payoff for the airline while still providing more mission flexibility and reducing the reserve fuel requirements so that more payload can be carried. In the past, variable-cycle engines were designed with large variations in bypass ratio to provide jet noise reduction. However, these types were complicated and did not perform well. Today, the trend is toward turbojets or low-bypass engines that have the ability to improve off-design performance by adjustment of compressor bleed or by a relatively small variation in bypass ratio. The current engine offerings from Pratt & Whitney and General Electric fall into this category. Both of these engines will require an effective jet noise suppressor. Rolls-Royce/SNECMA favors other approaches. One is a tandem fan that operates as a turbojet cycle for cruise but opens a bypass inlet and nozzle for higher flow at subsonic speeds. A second approach is to increase the bypass ratio by incorporating an additional fan and turbine stream into the flow path at subsonic speeds.

Some additional information on current supersonic engine development efforts from NASA Lewis follows: Following are five of the most promising engine concepts studied. (1) Turbine bypass engine (TBE) is a single spool turbojet engine that possesses turbofan-like subsonic performance, but produces the largest jet velocity of all the concepts. Hence, it needs a very advanced technology mixer-ejector exhaust nozzle with about 18 decibels (dB) suppression ability to attain FAR 36 Stage III noise requirements without over sizing the engine and reducing power during take off. This level of suppression could be reached if the ejector airflow equals 120 percent of the primary flow. (2) The Variable Cycle Engine (VCE) which alters its bypass ratio during flight to better match varying requirements. However, although its original version defined in the 1970's relied on an inverted velocity profile exhaust system to meet less stringent FAR 36 Stage II noise goals, the revised version needs a more powerful 15 dB suppression solution. A 60 percent mass flow augmented mixer-ejector nozzle together with modest engine oversizing would satisfy this requirement. It should not be inferred from the above that the TBE needs a 120 percent mass flow augmented mixer-ejector nozzle while the VCE only needs one that is 60 percent. There is uncertainty concerning the best combination of mass flow augmentation,

acoustic lining, and engine oversizing for both engines. (3) A relative newcomer, the fan-on-blade ("Flade") engine is a variation of the VCE. It has an auxiliary third flow stream deployed during takeoff by opening a set of inlet guide vanes located in an external annular duct surrounding the VCE. The auxiliary annular duct is pressurized by extension to the fan blades and is scrolled into the lower half of the engine prior to exhausting to provide a fluid acoustic shield. It also requires a relatively modest mixer-ejector exhaust nozzle of approximately 30 percent flow augmentation. (4) The fourth concept is the mixed flow turbofan (MFTF) with a mixer-ejector nozzle. (5) The final engine concept is a TBE with an Inlet Flow Valve (TBE/IFV). The IFV is activated during takeoff to permit auxiliary inlets to feed supplementary air to the rear compressor stages while the main inlet air is compressed by just the front compressor stages. While a single spool TBE/IFV still needs a mixer-ejector exhaust nozzle, it seems possible to avoid that complexity with a two-spool version because of greater flow handling ability in the takeoff mode. Data on several specific engines is provided in the section on engine performance. Links to manufacturers' sites are provided in that section as well.

How Many Engines?
One of the questions to be answered early in the conceptual design stage is how many engines will be desirable. The recent trend is definitely toward fewer engines, with twin engine aircraft becoming the most popular design. This has become possible for larger aircraft as the thrust of engines has climbed to levels that were nearly unimaginable not long ago. 100,000+ lb sea level static thrust engines are now available. The interest in large twin engine aircraft come from the greater economy afforded by using fewer engines. Current engine prices are such that it is less expensive to obtain a specified sea level static thrust level with two large engines than with three or four smaller ones. However, when more engines are used, the system is more reliable. And it is not just the propulsion system that is more reliable. When additional electrical generators or hydraulic pumps are available, overall system reliability is improved. However, it is more likely that at least one engine will fail. These considerations limited the use of twin engine aircraft for long flights. The U.S. operating rules limited two and three engine aircraft to routes over which the airplane could not be more than 60 minutes from an alternate airport after an engine had failed. In 1964, three-engine turbine-powered aircraft were exempted from this rule. More recently, the FAA approved extended range operations for twin engine aircraft requiring that the

aircraft stay within 120 minutes (with engine failure) of an appropriate airport and 180 minute ETOPS are becoming more common. Probability of Engine Failure Failed 1 2 3 4 Engines: Total Engines: 1 P 2 2 2P P 2 3 3 3P 3P P 4 4P 6P2 4P3 P4

The probability, P, in this table depends on the particular engine and the flight duration, but for typical high bypass ratio turbines, the in-flight shutdown rate varies from .02 to .1 per 1000 hours, with the higher rates associated with engines in their introduction. A value of 0.05 is a typical average. In addition to questions of reliability, several other considerations are important in the selection of the number of engines. Twin Engine Aircraft: must meet climb requirements with one engine out. This means that the available thrust is reduced by more than 50% (more because of the extra drag associated with the failed engine and the need to trim with asymmetric thrust). Engine failure on a four-engine aircraft reduces the thrust by a bit more than 25%. This means that twins have engines that are often oversized for long range cruise. This adds weight, cost, and drag. Four Engine Aircraft: must meet second segment climb requirements with 75% or so of installed power, usually leading to a better match with cruise performance, but the larger number of engines mean more parts, more maintenance, and more cost. The distribution of engine mass over the wing can reduce the bending loads on the wing, but may also result in greater penalties to prevent flutter. Tri-jets: are a compromise losing favor. The third engine creates a problem with installation as discussed in the next section. There are sometimes other considerations that are dominant in the selection of number of engines. General aviation aircraft are generally required to have a stall speed not greater than 61 knots if they have only one engine (although now this requirement may be waived). This is a major reason that most higher speed GA airplanes are twins. The BAE146, a small four-engine feeder aircraft was designed to operate out of small airports without extensive maintenance facilities. It was desirable to be able to fly to a larger

facility after one engine had failed. By using four engines, the aircraft is allowed to takeoff with just three operating engines on a ferry mission (no passengers) to be repaired elsewhere. The choice of number of engines is most strongly related to engine sizing. Typical ratios of aircraft sea-level static thrust to take-off weight are given below: Typical T/W for Various Transport Aircraft Aircraft Type: T/W Twin .3 Tri-jet .25 4-Engine .2 Twin Exec. Jet .4 SST .4

Note: the data for commercial aircraft above come from Jane's All the World's Aircraft. SST numbers include: 0.40 from a Japanese study (see References), 0.385 (Langley Study), .380 (Concorde w/ afterburners), .28 (Boeing Study w/ Turbine Bypass Engine concept of Pratt and Whitney), .24-.30 (Langley Study assuming 'advanced engines'), .36 (1970's U.S. SST), .398 (Douglas AST 1975 study), .32 (Douglas Mach 3.2 study airplane, 1989) One starts with these rough estimates of thrust-to-weight ratio, selects an engine from the currently available list, and sometimes scales the basic engine as needed.