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Rolls-Royce Opens World’s Largest Testbed

May 30, 2021
Three-year, $127-million aerospace testbed will support current and new turbofan engine programs, as well as sustainable and hybrid fuel programs and future all-electric flight systems.

Rolls-Royce opened the new, £90-million ($127 million) aerospace testbed at its engineering and production center in Derby, England, completing the three-year project that CEO Warren East called the “hub of out testing capability” for turbofan engines.

“Testbed 80 is the largest facility of its type in the world. However, it is not only big,” East detailed. “It is also smart and features the most advanced testing technology we have ever used.”

The testbed was inaugurated earlier this year with a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine.

East reconfirmed previous reports that the 7,500-square meter testbed will support the next stage of Rolls’ UltraFan engine program, with ground testing beginning in 2022. UltraFan is a geared turbofan engine design with a 140-in. diameter fan, projected to achieve 25% fuel-consumption savings over the current generation of high-bypass turbofan engines.

However, earlier this year East announced that further development of the to-date £500-million (about $680 million) UltraFan geared-turbofan engine will be paused next year until jet-builders are prepared to proceed with new narrow-body aircraft designs.

Rolls emphasized that the new testbed was been designed to test a range of engines as well as Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), which can be used as “drop-in” fuels in its current engine models. Also, Testbed 80 is designed to test hybrid or all-electric flight systems, the developer noted.