Modern Approach to Liquid Rocket Engine Development for Microsatellite Launchers

Microsatellites have been carried to space as secondary payloads aboard larger launchers for many years. However, this secondary payload method does not offer the specificity required for modern day demands of increasingly sophisticated small satellites which have unique orbital and launch-time requirements. Furthermore, to remain competitive the launch cost must be as low as $7000/kg. The question of paramount importance today is how to design both the liquid rocket engine turbopump and the entire engine to reduce the duration and cost of development.

The system design approach applied to rocket engine design is one of the potential ways for development duration reduction. The development of the design system which reduces the duration of development along with performance optimization is described herein.

The engineering system for preliminary engine design needs to integrate a variety of tools for design/simulation of each specific component or subsystem of the turbopump including thermodynamic simulation of the engine in a single iterative process.

The process flowchart, developed by SoftInWay, Inc., integrates all design and analysis processes and is presented in the picture below.

Execution Process Flow Chart
Execution Process Flow Chart

The preliminary layout of the turbopump was automatically generated in CAD tool (Block 11). The developed sketch was utilized in the algorithm for mass/inertia parameters determination, secondary flow system dimensions generations, and for the visualization of the turbopump configuration. The layout was automatically refined at every iteration. Read More

Hydrodynamic Journal Bearings Optimization Considering Rotor Dynamics Restrictions

This is an excerpt from a technical paper, presented at the ASME Turbo Expo 2018 Conference in Oslo, Norway and written by Leonid Moroz, Leonid Romanenko, Roman Kochurov, and Evgen Kashtanov. Follow the link at the end of the post to read the full study! 


High-performance rotating machines usually operate at a high rotational speed and produce significant static and dynamic loads that act on the bearings. Fluid film journal bearings play a significant role in machine overall reliability and rotor-bearing system vibration and performance characteristics. The increase of bearings complexity along with their applications severity make it challenging for the engineers to develop a reliable design. Bearing modeling should be based on accurate physical effects simulation. To ensure bearing reliable operation, the design should be performed based not only on simulation results for the hydrodynamic bearing itself but also, taking into the account rotor dynamics results for the particular rotor-bearing system, because bearing characteristics significantly influence the rotor vibration response.

AxSTREAM Bearing

Numbers of scientists and engineers have been involved in a journal bearing optimal design generation. A brief review of works dedicated to various aspects of bearing optimization is presented in [1]. Based on the review it can be concluded, that the performance of isolated hydrodynamic bearing can be optimized by proper selection of the length, clearance, and lubricant viscosity. Another conclusion is that the genetic algorithms and particle swarm optimization can be successfully applied to optimize the bearing design. Journal bearings optimizations based on genetic algorithms are also considered in [2-5]. The studies show the effectiveness of the genetic algorithms. At the same time, the disadvantages of the approach are high complexity and a greater number of function evaluations in comparison with numerical methods, which require significantly higher computational efforts and time for the optimization. A numerical evolutionary strategy and an experimental optimization on a lab test rig were applied to get the optimal design of a tilting pad journal bearing for an integrally geared compressor in [6]. The final result of numerical and experimental optimizations was tested in the field and showed that the bearing pad temperature could be significantly decreased. Optimal journal bearing design selection procedure for a large turbocharger is described in [7]. In this study power loss, rotor dynamics instability, manufacturing, and economic restrictions are analyzed. To optimize the oil film thickness by satisfying the condition of maximizing the pressure in a three lobe bearing, the multi-objective genetic algorithm was used in [8]. In the reviewed studies the optimization has been performed for ‘isolated’ bearing and influence on rotor dynamics response was not considered.

For higher reliability and longer life of rotating mechanical equipment, the vibration of the rotor-bearing system and of the entire drivetrain should be as low as possible. A good practice
for safe rotor design typically involves the avoidance of any resonance situation at operating speeds with some margins. One common method of designing low vibration equipment is to have a separation margin between the critical natural frequencies and operating speed, as required by API standard [9]. The bearing design and parameters significantly influence rotor-bearing system critical speeds. Thus, to guarantee low rotor vibrations, the critical speeds separation margins should be ensured at rotor-bearing system design/optimization stage

Conjugated optimization for the entire rotor-bearing system is a challenging task due to various conflicting design requirements, which should be fulfilled. In [10] parameters of
rotor-bearing systems are optimized simultaneously. The design objective was the minimization of power loss in bearings with constraints on system stability, unbalance sensitivities, and
bearing temperatures. Two heuristic optimization algorithms, genetic and particle-swarm optimizations were employed in the automatic design process.

There are several objective functions that are considered by researchers to optimize bearing geometry, such as:

– Optimum load carrying capacity [5];
– Minimum oil film thickness and bearing clearance optimization [1, 6, 8];
– Power losses minimization [6, 7];
– Rotor dynamics restrictions;
– Manufacturing, reliability and economics restrictions [7]

The most common design variables which are considered in reviewed works are clearance, bearing length, diameter, oil viscosity, and oil supply pressure.

Finding the minimum power loss or optimal load carrying capacity together with the entire rotor-bearing system dynamics restrictions, require to employ optimization techniques, because accounting the effects from all considered parameters significantly enlarge the analysis process. Several numerical methods, such as FDM and FEM are usually employed to solve this complex problem and calculation process can sometimes be time-consuming and takes a large amount of computing capacity. To leverage this optimization tasks, efficient algorithms are needed.

In the current study, the optimization approach, which is based on DOE and best sequences method (BSM) [11, 12] and allows to generate journal bearings with improved characteristics was developed and applied to 13.5 MW induction motor application. The approach is based on coupled analysis of bearing and entire rotor-bearing system dynamics to satisfy API standard requirements.

Problem Formulation and Analysis Methods Description

The goal of the work is to increase reliability and efficiency for the 13.5 MW induction motor prototype (Fig. 1) by oil hydrodynamic journal bearings optimization.

Rotor of 13.5 MW Induction Motor
Figure 1: Rotor of 13.5 MW Induction Motor

The motor operating parameters and rotor characteristics are presented below:

– Rated speed rpm: 1750
– Minimum operating speed rpm: 1750
– Maximum operating speed rpm: 1750
– Mass of the rotor kg: 6509
– Length of the rotor mm: 3500

Initially, for the motor application, plain cylindrical journal bearings were chosen to support the rotor. The scheme of the DE (drive end) and NDE (non-drive end) baseline bearings designs
is presented in Fig. 2. For baseline designs, bearing loads were 35 kN for DE and 28 kN for NDE bearing.

Plain Cylindrical Bearing
Figure 2: Plain Cylindrical Bearing

The methodology for the bearing characteristics simulation is based on the mass-conserving mathematical model, proposed by Elrod & Adams [13], which is by now well-established as the
accurate tool for simulation in hydrodynamic lubrication including cavitation.

Read full paper here 

Design of Waste Heat Recovery Systems Based on Supercritical ORC for Powerful Gas and Diesel Engines

This is an excerpt from a technical paper, presented at the ASME ORC 2015 Conference in Brussels, Belgium and  written by Oleksii Rudenko, Leonid Moroz, Maksym Burlaka, and Clement Joly.  Follow the link at the end of the post to read the full study! 

1. Introduction

Internal combustion piston engines are among the largest consumers of liquid and gaseous fossil fuels all over the world. Despite the introduction of new technologies and constant improving of engines performances they still are relatively wasteful. Indeed, the efficiency of modern engines rarely exceeds 40-45% (Seher et al. (2012), Guopeng et al. (2013)) and the remainder of the fuel energy usually dissipates into the environment in the form of waste heat. The heat balance diagram of typical engine is given in Figure 1. As is evident from Figure 1, besides the mechanical work energy the heat balance includes a heat of exhaust gas, a heat of charge air, a Jacket Water (JW) heat, a heat of lubricating oil and a radiation heat. The energy from all the heat sources except the last one (radiation), due to its ultra-low waste heat recovery potential, can be used as heat sources for WHRS (Paanu et al. (2012)) and are considered here.

Heat Balance Diagram
Figure 1: Typical heat balance diagram for CAT engine (Caterpillar (2011))

Waste heat utilization is a very current task because it allows to reduce the harmful influence of ICPE operation on the environment as well as to obtain additional energy and to reduce the load on the engine’s cooling system. Different WHRS can produce heat energy, mechanical energy or electricity and combinations of the converted energy forms exist as well. In general, the type of WHRS to be used is determined by the engine type, fuel cost, available energy customers and other factors. In the presented paper, only WHRS for mechanical power and electricity production were considered because these kinds of energy are preferable for this type of applications and they can be easily converted into other forms of energy.

For vehicle engines the WHRS based on Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) are the most commercially developed (Paanu et al. (2012)). Because of strict restrictions on weight and dimensions, the
mentioned systems typically operate on the base of a simple or recuperated ORC and utilize only high temperature waste heat from the exhaust gases and the exhaust gas recirculation. They usually produce mechanical power or electricity. More complex cycles and a larger number of heat sources are used for waste heat recovery from powerful internal combustion engines where additional weight and dimensions are not crucial factors. Waste heat from stationary, marine and another more powerful ICPE can be recovered using a typical steam bottoming cycle. Steam WHRS allow utilizing almost all a high temperature waste heat and partially utilizing a low temperature heat. The high efficiency steam WHRS are presented in (MAN Diesel & Turbo (2012), Petrov (2006)), they provide up to 14.5% of power boost for the engine.

Addition of the internal heat recuperation to a WHR cycle:

  1. Appropriate working fluid selection;
  2. Increment of initial parameters of bottoming cycle up to supercritical values;
  3. Maximize waste heat utilization due to the usage of low temperature heat sources;
  4. Bottoming cycle complexification or usage of several bottoming cycles with different fluids
    (Maogang (2011)).

This paper focuses on the development of new WHRS as an alternative to high efficiency steam bottoming cycles by accounting for the latest progress in the field of waste heat recovery. The
application range of the proposed system extends to powerful and super powerful ICPEs.

The goal of the presented work is the development of a new, high efficiency WHRS for powerful and super powerful ICPEs based on ORC principles. To solve the assigned task, a thorough study of the currently existing works was performed and the best ideas were combined. The principles of the maximum waste heat utilization, maximum possible initial cycle parameters, recuperation usage and single working fluid were assumed as a basis for the new WHRS design.

Read the full paper here

Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Pumps

Pumps are important for many common systems which deal with water, such as heating circulating flows, consumer or industrial water supply, fountains, and fire protection systems.

Pumps are classified into two major categories: Rotodynamic pumps and positive displacement pumps (piston pumps). Rotodynamic pumps can be further classified as axial pumps, centrifugal (radial) pumps, or mixed pumps.

Centrifugal pumps are the devices which impart energy to the fluid (liquid) by means of rotating impeller vanes, and the fluid exits radially from the pump impeller. Such pumps are simple, efficient, reliable, relatively inexpensive, and easily meet the pumping system requirements for filtration. This is a great pump choice for moving liquids from one place to another using pressure.

Types of Rotodynamic Pumps
Figure 1. Types of Rotodynamic Pumps

Centrifugal Pump Design

A centrifugal pump is a very common component in turbomachines, but as with any component, it still needs continual improvement in the design methodology, from conceptual level to the final product development including testing at different levels. The challenge is to design a pump with improved efficiency while minimizing the possibility of cavitation.

Need of Numerical Simulation

Years ago, engineers performed prototype testing at each level of design to check the performance (which was very costly and time consuming). Now with advancements in the computation technology and resources, it is comparatively easier to design high efficiency pumps within a short duration of time. These simulations can be done with a computer, so, the number of physical prototypes required is greatly reduced. The main advantage of numerical simulation is that it allows engineers to virtually test the CAD model early in the design process, and provides flexibility for engineers to iterate the design until getting the required performance.

Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Pumps

Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) replaces the huge number of testing requirement. This not only shortens the design cycle time but also significantly reduces development cost.

In a CFD model, the region of interest, a pump impeller flow-path for example, is subdivided into a large number of cells which form the grid or mesh. The PDEs (partial differential equations) can be rewritten as algebraic equations that relate the velocity, pressure, temperature, etc. in a cell to those in all of the cell’s immediate neighbors. The resulting set of equations can then be solved iteratively, yielding a complete description of the flow throughout the domain.

To accomplish CFD simulations, there are several software programs available, but user must select a very well validated software that can provide and easy user interface, automatic mesh generation and flexibility to modify the geometry to perform optimization without needing to move to some other software platform.

In the current trend, automatic mesh generation tools like AxCFD™ are employed in the AxSTREAM® software platforms which reduces the turbomachines meshing complications and generate good quality mesh in considerably short timeframe which can capture the accurate flow features needed. Figure 2 shows the discretized impeller and pressure contour after CFD analysis.

Discretized Impeller and Pressure Contour After CFD Analysis
Figure 2. Discretized Impeller and Pressure Contour After CFD Analysis

AxCFD™, in AxSTREAM® platform, provides user an opportunity to perform CFD analysis by applying standard methods of full three-dimensional CFD, axisymmetric CFD (meridional), and blade-to-blade analysis. User can even perform optimization of the blade profiles and other geometrical parameters within the AxSTREAM® platform and perform CFD simulation without altering any CFD settings.

An Introduction to Accurate HVAC System Modeling

HVAC (Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) is all about comfort, and comfort is a subjective feeling associated with many parameters like air quality, air temperature, surrounding surface temperature, air flow and relative humidity. For example, while it is easy to understand how the temperature of the air in your living impacts how good you feel, the surfaces with which you are in contact also strongly affect your comfort. For example, last night I got out of bed to clean up after my dog who thought it would be a good idea to swallow (and give back) her chew toy. If I was wearing my slippers, it would have been much easier to go back to sleep between the warm bed sheets without the discomfort of waiting my cold feet warm up to normal temperature.

Speaking of sleep discomfort, many stem from HVAC imbalances.  If you wake up in the middle of the night quite thirsty, then you should probably check how dry your bedroom is. The recommended range is 40-60% relative humidity. A higher humidity puts you at risk for mold while lower humidity can lead to respiratory infections, asthma, etc.

Now that we know how HVAC contributes to our comfort, let’s look at the HVAC unit as a system and see its role, functioning and simulation at a high level. The following examples provided are for a house, but similar concepts apply to residential buildings, offices, and so on.

Controlling Temperature

The easiest parameter to control is the air temperature. It can be set by a thermostat and regulated according to a heating or cooling flow distributed from the HVAC unit to the different rooms through ducting. Without the introduction of thermally-different-than-ambient air, the house will heat or cool itself based on a combination of outside conditions and how well the building is insulated. Therefore, to keep a constant temperature a certain amount of energy must be used to provide heating (or cooling) at the same rate the house is losing (or gaining) heat.  This is a match of the house load and heating/cooling capacity. Figure 1 provides a graph of the energy needed.

Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature
Figure 1 Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature

Read More

Turbojets – Basics and Off-design Simulation

The Brayton cycle is the fundamental constant pressure gas heating cycle used by all air-breathing jet engines. The Brayton cycle can be portrayed by a diagram of temperature vs. specific entropy, or T–S diagram, to visualize changes to temperature and specific entropy during a thermodynamic process or cycle. Figure 1 shows this ideal cycle as a black line.  However, in the real world, the compression and expansion processes are never isentropic, and there is always a certain pressure loss in the combustor.  The real Brayton cycle looks more like the blue line in Figure 1.

Figure 1 T-S diagram for ideal and real Brayton cycle

The four stages of this cycle are described as:

1-2: isentropic compression

2-3: constant pressure heating

3-4: isentropic expansion

4-0: constant pressure cooling (absent in open cycle gas turbines)

The most basic form of a jet engine is a turbojet engine. Figures 2a and 2b provide the basic design of a turbojet engine. It consists of a gas turbine that produces hot, high-pressure gas, but has zero net shaft power output. A nozzle converts the thermal energy of the hot, high-pressure gas at the outlet of the turbine into a high-kinetic-energy exhaust stream. The high momentum and high exit pressure of the exhaust stream result in a forward thrust on the engine. Read More

Design of a Competitive Axial Turbine for Downsized Turbocharged IC Engine

The following article was written by Lorenzo Baietta a student at Brunel University London and presented at the International CAE Conference Poster Competition in Vicenza, Italy. Lorenzo’s work placed 6th overall and 1st among articles written by a single author. We’re thrilled for Lorenzo and excited to continue supporting universities and young engineers all over the world. 

The continue research for engine efficiency improvements is one of the major challenges of the last decades, leading to the design of highly downsized boosted engines. Among other boosting strategies, turbocharging allows to recover part of the exhaust gas energy, improving the overall efficiency of the power unit. However, turbochargers lead to less responsive power units because of the widely known turbo-lag effect due to the inertia of the rotating parts in the system. With engine manufacturers testing different concepts to reduce this effect, for both commercial and motorsport applications, the work is about the development of a low inertia turbocharger axial turbine, evaluating pro and cons of several design solution. The idea is to initially evaluate the performance (mainly efficiency) difference between prismatic and twisted blades turbine for different size ranges. In fact, as one of the issue of axial turbines compared to radial ones is the production cost, the use of low aspect ratios blades, in such a way to minimize the difference between the use of 3D optimized turbines and prismatic turbines, should allow for more cost-effective solutions to be implemented.

After selecting a specific engine to develop the axial turbine, several CAE techniques were used to verify the idea and to obtain the best possible solution. The OEM turbocharger was 3D scanned, with a blue light technology stereoscopic optical system, to acquire accurate geometry data and calculate several properties. A 1D engine model, calibrated on the dyno, was used to calculate the aerothermal boundary conditions for the design of the turbine every 1000rpm from 1000 to 6000 to have all the required boundary conditions data to design/test the turbine at different engine operating points.

Several turbines were preliminary designed and optimized with AxSTREAM® and their performances were evaluated considering many parameters, mainly focusing on the reduction of the turbocharger spool-up time. The AxSTREAM® preliminary design module resulted crucial to compare the performance of over 1 million turbines allowing the comparison of the results with different loss models and a wide number on flow boundary conditions and geometrical constraints.

Turbine Design Methodology – Preliminary Design in AxSTREAM

The generated turbine preliminary CAD and the scanned OEM turbine mesh were used along with CAM programs at an external company to estimate the production cost of different solutions. A final turbine design was chosen, among the pre-designed ones, to be validated with generation of complete maps within the AxSTREAM® streamline solver which allowed an initial verification of the suitability of the turbine for the desired application. A further optimization of the results was obtained with increasing precision CFD simulations in the AxSTREAM® Profiling and CFD modules. 2D cascade simulations were used to optimize the stator and rotor airfoils in the Profiling module. Then, in AxCFD™, axisymmetric CFD simulations were run at several operating points to quickly investigate the suitability of the generated design for the whole power unit operating range. To conclude, full 3D CFD and FEA simulations were conducted to obtain more accurate values and complete the design process of the turbine and finally compare the data of the newly designed turbine and the OEM one.

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Automotive Engine Lubrication System Modelling and Analysis

The lubrication system is one of the most important systems of an engine.

This system should ensure:

  1. Delivery of the required oil amount to the moving parts (e.g.-Bearings);
  2. Dissipation of the heat generated due to friction by circulation of lubricant throughout the system; and
  3. Cleaning of the oil from contamination and impurities introduced during engine operation.


To meet the above requirements, the lubricant circulation (lubricant reaching each component) should happen at appropriate pressure and mass flow rate throughout the system.  This is also required in order to avoid cavitation caused by adverse pressure, and excessive heat generation due to less mass flow rate, at any place or particularly at any component. However, sometimes lubricant does not circulate properly to each corner of the system or to the rotating components. In some cases, the rotation of the crankshaft can actually starve the bearings and increase the internal heat due to insufficient supply of lubrication.

To avoid such problems, simulation engineers must model the whole system at all operating modes. They can predict the best system by varying flow rates (volumetric or mass flow rates), system pressures, temperatures, heat flows, as well as by changing the system geometry itself. Such modelling can be performed easily and with sufficient accuracy in a 1D Thermal Fluid analysis tool, such as AxSTREAM NET™ developed by SoftInWay.

It is worthwhile to use a 1D-Analysis tool in this case, because it can be used at any stage of the system design process to explore more options for improving the final design and to reduce development cycle time. The simulation engineer can easily create a model of automotive engine lubrication system, using different elements (components) which are available in the element database of AxSTREAM NET™. The system configuration can also be easily changed at any stage in the design process without rebuilding the complex 3D models.

Let us try to understand how to build a 1D scheme for an automotive engine lubrication system in a 1D tool (AxSTREAM NET™). First, we need to identify the major elements (components) which are part of the automotive engine lubrication system as per their order or sequence in the scheme. A typical engine lubrication system involves components like Oil – sump, strainer, pump and filter, all of which are parts of the initial oil suction line. In addition, the main gallery involves components like flow passages within the connecting rods, crankshaft, and bearings. The typical connections among these elements are shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1 Main elements of a lubrication system
Figure 1 Main elements of a lubrication system

Now let’s see the arrangement of a few components with their specific purposes towards the construction of the whole model.

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Tidal Energy

If you’re looking for clean, free energy… a song comes to mind.

Tide after tide.
If you flow I will catch – I’ll be waiting.
Tide after tide.

With no particular link to Cyndi Lauper, waves just want to have fun so let’s allow them to do so while catching their drift as a potential energy source using tidal turbines.


Wave energy is a form of hydropower used to convert energy obtained from tides into mechanical and/or electrical power. Wave energy is produced when electricity generators are placed on the surface of the ocean. The energy provided is most often used in desalination plants, power plants and water pumps. Energy output is determined by wave height, wave speed, wavelength, and water density.

sea wave during storm
Figure 1 Ocean Waves

How are Tides Generated:

Tidal forces are periodic variations in gravitational attraction exerted by celestial bodies. It is these forces that are responsible for the currents in the world’s oceans. A local, strong attraction on a part of the ocean allied with moving celestial bodies and the rotation of the Earth leads this bulging part of water to meet the adjacent shallower waters of the shoreline which creates the tides.

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Turbine Blade Cooling – An Integrated Approach

It is a well-known fact in the turbomachinery community that the highest temperature achievable at the inlet of the turbine is a critical performance parameter for the turbine. For any given pressure ratio and adiabatic efficiency, the turbine specific work is proportional to the inlet stagnation temperature. Typically, a 1% increase in the turbine inlet temperature can cause a 2-3% increase in the engine output.

Increase in net power output of a gas turbine over a one percentage point rise in turbine inlet temperature
Figure 1 Increase in net power output of a gas turbine over a one percentage point rise in turbine inlet temperature

The major limitation for the maximum achievable value of the turbine inlet temperature comes from the material used for the turbine. The maximum material temperature has to be kept in check for multiple reasons, from the physical integrity to the structural reliability, and resulting temperature needs to be less than the turbine blade material’s maximum temperature.

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