Rolls-Royce expands testing facility with Purdue University

Posted on 3 August, 2021 by Advance 

Rolls-Royce has launched a new major investment project with Purdue University in Indiana to develop new test facilities for high-altitude and hybrid-electric engines to power the next generation of US military aircraft.

Image courtesy Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce West Lafayette will be developed at the Purdue Aerospace District, just off the university campus, where the company already has facilities focusing on digital engine controls and conducts advanced technology engine research at the university’s Zucrow Propulsion Labs. The location at Purdue is a natural fit since the university and Rolls-Royce have had a long-standing partnership over several decades of conducting aerospace research together, and the company employs hundreds of Purdue engineers.

This facility will enable Rolls-Royce North America to continue the legacy of providing full-service advanced design, development, production and aftermarket support of world-leading propulsion solutions. The new investment complements recent modernisation at Rolls-Royce facilities in Indianapolis, and future planning for new test capabilities there to support military engine production.

Tom Bell, CEO and Chairman, Rolls-Royce North America, said: “Rolls-Royce has a proud history of supporting our US military and commercial customers and this new significant investment will continue to grow our capability to serve our customers. This reflects yet another major investment in Indiana, and we are also planning significant investment into our test facilities at our Indianapolis manufacturing campus, which has benefitted from a recently completed $600 million modernisation programme to grow advanced manufacturing and technology capability. We thank both local and state governments for their ongoing support.”

The new, modern test facility at Purdue will position Rolls-Royce Defense for the future and significantly improve energy efficiency, helping the company meet its goal of achieving net-zero carbon status in operations by 2030. Additionally, the advanced testing facilities will incorporate modern, flexible, digital technologies that will accelerate engine development and test schedules, enabling quicker responses to customer needs.

The new facilities will be funded primarily by Rolls-Royce, with support from Purdue University and the Purdue Research Foundation.

Mitch Daniels, Purdue University President, said: “Purdue is delivering new, one-of-a-kind facilities that are national assets and will further differentiate the university as a state and national leader in securing and defending our country. With this vital partnership and support from our good friends at Rolls-Royce and others, we continue to expand our role as the economic engine for this region of Indiana and beyond.”

Gas turbine engine test cells must offer flexible operation to qualify engines for customer use. However, true high-altitude test cells are rare across the US. The new Rolls-Royce high-altitude test cell at West Lafayette will expand the company’s testing capability for a large number of current and future engines, including the AE 1107C engines for the V-22 Osprey, the AE 2100 engines for the C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and the engines for the Bell V-280 Valor aircraft competing in the US Army’s Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft programme.

The test cell will simulate air conditions for testing, 'flying' the engine at altitude while the test engine is still physically on the ground. Flexible testing systems, improved test times, modern digital systems and data acquisition all underpin the Rolls-Royce commitment to the next generation of defense platforms, with American-made jet engines.

The new test campus will also expand Rolls-Royce capability for testing hybrid-electric technologies including directed energy, batteries, thermal management, generators, power electronics and other components. As customers rapidly increase demands to integrate and expand digital systems, the demand for hybrid and electric solutions will continue to grow, and the new test facility will accelerate Rolls-Royce capabilities in these advanced technology areas.