Rolls-Royce unveils world’s largest engine testbed

The first engine run has taken place on Rolls-Royce’s new Testbed 80, said to be the world’s largest and smartest aerospace engine test rig.

The testbed has an internal area of 7,500m2, making it larger than a Premier League football pitch (Credit: Rolls-Royce)

In development for the past three years, the £90m facility is located at Rolls-Royce’s Deby test centre. It has an internal area of 7,500m2 and was designed to accommodate both existing and future Rolls engines, including the next-generation UltraFan demonstrator. The inaugural test run saw a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine put through its paces on the rig.

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“Today is an important landmark in our journey towards a more sustainable future for aerospace and aviation,” said Chris Cholerton, president of Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace.

“Testbed 80 will not only test engines such as the Trent XWB – the world’s most efficient aero-engine in service – but also the engines and propulsion systems of the future, which will see us take another step towards decarbonisation. 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.”

Testbed 80
(Credit: Rolls-Royce)

According to Rolls-Royce, Testbed 80 can collect data from more than 10,000 different parameters on an engine, using a web of sensors that can detect tiny vibrations at a rate of up to 200,000 samples per second. The testbed is also home to a powerful x-ray machine that is able to capture 30 images per second and beam them directly to a secure cloud, where engineers around the world can access them for analysis. Rolls-Royce claims it is the only aero manufacture to use x-ray imaging on its engines while they are running.

The company will also use the testbed to further explore the performance of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), synthetic alternatives to petroleum-derived hydrocarbons. Rolls-Royce said that SAFs can already be used as ‘drop-in’ fuels for its existing engines. Testbed 80’s 140,000 litre tank can house various fuel types – including SAFs – and will be used to investigate different blends as part of the company’s decarbonisation strategy.