Performance Testing of Axial Compressors

Performance testing is a key part of the design and development process of advanced axial compressors.  These are widely used in the modern world and can be found in nearly every industry, and include the core compressor for aeropropulsion turbofan engines, as well as aeroderivative gas turbine engines for power generation.  An example of this are the turbine engines shown in Figure 1 and 2, which feature an industrial gas turbine and a high bypass ratio turbofan engine with a multistage high-pressure core compressor. The development time of these machines can involve numerous expensive design-build-test iterations before they can become an efficient and competitive product. This places a great importance on the accuracy of the data taken during the performance tests during the development of the compressor since the test data taken is often used to anchor the loss models within the design tools. Modern axial compressors typically have high aerodynamic loadings per stage for improved system efficiency and requires precise aerodynamic matching of the stages to achieve the required pressure ratio with high efficiency. Variable geometry inlet guide vanes and stators in the first few stages are typically required to provide acceptable operability while maintaining high efficiency and adequate stall margin.

Industrial gas turbine for power generation.
Figure 1. Industrial gas turbine for power generation. Source
Figure 2. Turbofan engine for aeropropulsion.
Figure 2. Turbofan engine for aeropropulsion. Source

Performance Testing of Axial Compressors

Axial compressors all undergo a thorough design and development phase in which performance testing is vital to their ultimate success as a product. Performance testing during the development phase of these high-power density machines can ensure that the design meets the specified requirements or can identify a component within the turbomachine which falls short of its expected performance, and may require further development, and possible redesign. Performance testing can also ensure that the unit can meet all the conditions specified and not merely the guaranteed condition. Aerodynamic performance testing multistage axial compressors during the early part of development is often done in phases. The development test program is planned and executed with a design of experiments approach and includes varying the air flow and shaft rotational speed as well as the variable geometry schedule in order to fully characterize the compressor. In the first phase, the front block of the compressor is built and tested at corrected (referenced) air flow rate, inlet pressure, temperature and shaft rotational speed. Instrumentation includes utilizing traditional rakes and surveys at the exit, to obtain spanwise distributions of pressure, temperature, and flow angles. Testing in phases is typically done for two reasons. Read More

Common Challenges in Rocket Engine Rotor/Bearing Systems

Rocket engines are the perfect creation of the human mind, incorporating our existing knowledge in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, solid and fluid mechanics, and rotor dynamics. Believe it or not, rocket engines designs contain turbopumps that move fuel and the oxidizer into a combustion chamber creating the perfect conditions for their burning and high-efficiency rocket motion. The word “turbopump” means that the pump is driven by the turbine installed on the same shaft or connected to it through a gearbox. This thrilling tandem results in a bunch of rotor dynamics effects inherent in pumps, turbines, high-speed rotors, cryogenic temperature materials, etc. And all these effects must be carefully taken into account during rotor dynamics studies.

A standard schematic of an internally geared turbopump consists of the liquid hydrogen (LH2, fuel) and liquid oxygen (LO2, oxidizer) rotors.

Fig. 1 - Internally geared turbopump model
Fig. 1 – Internally geared turbopump model

Although the rotor dynamics model is usually simpler than the CAD models, it looks quite complicated in the case of the turbopump. The rotors contain sections that are hollow and sections with some elements inside the hollow space. Read More

To Infinity and Beyond – A New Era of Space Exploration and the CAE Software to Get Us There

There’s nothing quite like rocket science, is there? It’s as fascinating as it is complicated. It’s not enough to just get a design right anymore – you have to get it right on the first go-around or very soon thereafter. Enter AxSTREAM.SPACE and all the functionality upgrades introduced in 2021.

AxSTREAM.SPACE was created by experienced mechanical and turbomachinery engineers to level the playing field when it comes to turbomachine-based liquid rocket engine design. By giving propulsion and system engineers a comprehensive tool that can connect with other proprietary or commercial software packages, the sky is, in fact, not the limit for innovation. It covers everything from flow path aerodynamic and hydrodynamic design to rotor dynamics, secondary flow/thermal network simulation, and system power balance calculations. This year, we are proud to unveil some new features that enhance each of these capabilities, which were developed at the request of our customers.


AxSTREAM.SPACE Software bundle

Power Balance

A critical part of any rocket engine development, as pointed out in a NASA blog, is engine power balance, also known as thermodynamic cycle simulation. AxCYCLE, SoftInWay’s own thermodynamic cycle solver that has been widely used in power generation and aviation is now helping companies build rocket engines from scratch, as well as expand their engine lineup based on an existing system. There are some goodies, however, which make it the perfect tool for power balance, and an asset of AxSTREAM.SPACE.

One of the first upgrades in AxCYCLE for rocket engine design was the integration with NASA’s Chemical Equilibrium with Applications, or CEA, tool. Considered the gold standard when it comes to incorporating accurate chemical properties in your working fluid, CEA was developed by NASA and is widely used throughout the industry, so it makes sense that we’d incorporate it into AxCYCLE for your convenience. Another new feature is the incorporation of burners for rocket engines specifically, and these were validated against NASA’s CEA tool as well.

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Modern Approaches and Significance of Multiphase Flow Modeling


Corresponding with the development of industrial technology in the middle of the nineteenth century, people dealt with multiphase flows but the decision to describe them in a rigorous mathematical form was first made only 70 years ago. As the years progressed, development of computers and computation technologies led to the revolution in mathematical modeling of mixing and multiphase flows. There are a few periods, which could describe the development of this computation:

«Empirical Period» (1950-1975)

There were a lot of experiments that were done during this period. All models were obtained from experimental or industrial facilities which is why using them was difficult for different cases.

«Awakening Period» (1975-1985)

Because of sophisticated, expensive, and not universal experiments, the researchers’ attention was directed to the physical processes in multiphase flows.

«Modeling Period» (1985-Present)

Today, the models for multi-flow calculation using the equations of continuity together with equations of energy conservation are obtained, which allow describing phase’s interaction for different flow regimes. (A.V. Babenko, L. B. Korelshtein – Hydraulic calculation two-phase gas-liquid course: modern approach // Calculations and modeling journal. – 2016. – TPА 2 (83) 2016. – P.38-42.)

Technology Development

Since the time of industrial development, installation designs have undergone great changes. For example, there are shell and tube evaporators for freeze systems where the heat transfer coefficient has increased 10 times over during the last 50 years. These results are a consequence of different innovation decisions. Developments led to research into mini-channels systems, which is the one of the methods to increase intensification of phase transition. Research has shown that heat exchange systems with micro and nano dimensions have a much greater effect than the macrosystems with channels dimensions ≤3-200 mm.

In order to organize fundamental research, it is very important to understand hydro, gas dynamics, and heat changes in two-phase systems with the phase transition. At present, the number of researchers using advanced CFD programs has increased. Our team is one of the lead developers of these program complexes.
Mathematical modeling of compressible multiphase fluid flows is interesting with a lot of scientific directions and has big potential for practical use in many different engineering fields. Today it is no secret that environmental issues are some of the most commonly discussed questions in the world. People are trying to reduce the emissions of combustion products. One of the methods to decrease emissions is the organization of an environmentally acceptable process of fuel-burning with reduced yields of nitrogen and sulfur. The last blog ( discussed numerical methods, which can calculate these tasks with minimal time and cost in CFD applications.

Waste Heat Boiler
Picture 1 – Waste heat boiler

For more effective use of energy resources and low-potential heat utilization, the choice of the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) is justified. Due to the fact that heat is used and converted to mechanical work, it is important to use a fluid with a boiling temperature lower than the boiling temperature of water at atmospheric pressure (with working flow-boiling temperature about 100⁰C). The usage of freons and hydrocarbons in these systems makes a solution impossible without taking into account the changes of working fluid phases. Read More

Turbomachinery and Rockets – a Historical/Technical Evolution


Quite surprisingly, rockets in their primal form were invented before turbomachinery, even though turbines and pumps are both present in modern launcher engines. However, it is interesting to note that  both can be traced to the same ancestor. In this post we will discuss some of the history and technical evolution of rockets and turbomachinery – and this all starts with an old pigeon.

Figure 1. Steam Turbine and Rocket


Circa 400BCE, a Greek philosopher and mathematician named Archytas designed a pigeon-like shape made out of wood that was suspended with wires and propelled along these guides using steam demonstrating the action-reaction principle long before Newton formalized it as a rule in Physics. As we know today, the faster and the more steam escapes the pigeon, the faster it goes. Turn this 90 degrees to have the bird face upward, and you have a very basic rocket concept. However, rockets are a lot more complex than this, and do not typically use steam (except in the case of liquid hydrogen + liquid oxygen propellants) as the propelling fluid.  Read More

An Overview of Axial Fans

Axial fans have become indispensable in everyday applications starting from ceiling fans to industrial applications and aerospace fans.  The fan has become a part of every application where ventilation and cooling is required, like in a condenser, radiator, electronics, etc., and they are available in a wide range of sizes from few millimeters to several meters. Fans generate pressure to move air/gases against the resistance caused by ducts, dampers, or other components in a fan system. Axial-flow fans are better suited for low-resistance, high-flow applications and can have widely varied operating characteristics depending on blade width and shape, a number of blades, and tip speed.

Fan Types

The major types of axial flow fans are propeller, tube axial, and vane axial.

  • – Propellers usually run at low speeds and handle large volumes of gas at low pressure. Often used as exhaust fans these have an efficiency of around 50% or less.
  • – Tube-axial fans turn faster than propeller fans, enabling operation under high-pressures 2500 – 4000 Pa with an efficiency of up to 65%.
  • – Vane-axial fans have guide vanes that improve the efficiency and operate at pressures up to 5000 Pa. Efficiency is up to 85%.
Types of Fans
Figure 1 Different Types of Axial Fans
Aerodynamic Design of an Axial Fan

The aerodynamic design of an axial fan depends on its applications. For example, axial fans for industrial cooling applications operate at low speeds and require simple profile shapes. When it comes to aircraft applications however, the fan must operate at very high speeds, and the aerodynamic design requirements become significantly different from more traditional fan designs. Read More

The Lovable Underdog of Turbomachinery

Everyone knows that APUs need love too…..

For Valentine’s Day, we want to look at an underdog of turbomachinery. A machine that is often overlooked, and not really in the limelight the way some of its larger cousins are, nor is it given the trendy position of being the “technology of the future” like its smaller cousins. Without this technology, airplanes would be entirely reliant on external power plants to maintain an electric power supply on the ground, and to start the main engines. So, what is this underappreciated machine?

APU plane
Okay one last hint – you can see its exhaust port.

If you haven’t been able to guess it, our Valentine this year is the aircraft auxiliary power unit, or APU for short. Although these are not present on all aircraft, they are typically used in larger airplanes such as commercial airliners. This allows aircraft to rely less on ground services when the main engines are not running. As a result, less equipment, manpower, and time are required to keep the plane in standby mode, and the aircraft can also service airports with less available resources in remote locations.

Where this Underdog Started

The aircraft auxiliary power unit can be traced back to the First World War, as they were used to provide electric power onboard airships and zeppelins. In the Second World War, American bombers and cargo aircraft had these systems as well. APUs were small piston engines, as the gas turbine had yet to be developed. These engines were typically V-twin or flat configuration engines, similar to what you might find on a motorcycle, and they were called putt-putts. These two-stroke engines usually put out less than 10-horsepower, but that was all that was required to provide DC power during low-level flight.

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Aircraft Fuel Systems

The airplane is a complex technical object. Like a human or other organisms, it consists of numerous vital systems; with one of the more critical ones being the fuel system. It is important part of any vehicle, let alone aircraft, aside from  the newest electric powered vehicles.

An aircraft’s fuel system provides fuel that is loaded, stored, managed and transported to the propulsion system of the vehicle[1, 2]. As aviation fuel is liquid, this system can be considered as hydraulic. Therefore, it’s able to be mapped out and modeled for analysis in a program like AxSTREAM NET™.

The Typical Fuel System of a Narrow-body Passenger Plane

For an example of a conventional aviation fuel system, consider a typical narrow-body airliner with two engines. Some of the popular planes in this category include the Boeing 737, the Tupolev Tu-204, Airbus A320, Comac C919, Sukhoi Superjet 100, Bombardier CRJ, Embraer E-Jet and Mitsubishi Regional Jet[3].

The storage fuel system is shown in figure 1 is for the Boeing 737-300. The fuel is kept in an integral tank that is divided to five separate subdivisions. They are the central, wing (main) and surge tanks[4].

Storage fuel system of a Boeing 737
Figure 1 – Storage Fuel System of a Boeing 737-300 [4]
The hydraulic scheme of the Boeing 737’s fuel system is shown in Figure 2. For fueling and defueling the storage system there are ports on the starboard wing. The system does not have pumps to onboard fuel, so fuel is pumped into the plane via a fuel truck. The other critical part of the fuel system is the line which delivers fuel to the two engines and the auxiliary power unit. In this line there are two boost centrifugal pumps by each engine.
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Centrifugal Compressor Reverse Engineering and Digital Twin Development

Centrifugal Compressors are the turbomachines also known as turbo-compressors, and belong to the roto-dynamic class of compressors. In these compressors the required pressure rise takes place due to the continuous conversion of angular momentum imparted to the working fluid by a high-speed impeller into pressure. These compressors are used in small gas-turbines, turbochargers, chiller units, in the process and paper industries, oil & gas industries and others.

The design and manufacturing of such compressors are always challenging because of its 3-dimensional shapes, high rotational speeds that interact with different loss mechanisms, and stringent working environments. In many circumstances, it is necessary to analyze an existing compressor, with the end goal being to redesign it, enhance its performance, or to use it in completely different applications. In order to meet such requirements, reverse engineering is a viable option. With reverse engineering, one can review competitor’s design to remain in market competition.

Reverse Engineering

Reverse engineering allows us to collect incomplete or non-existing design data and manufacture an accurate recreation, safely, of the original product or component.

Sometimes, it is also referred to as back engineering, in which centrifugal compressors or any other product are deconstructed to extract design information from them. Oftentimes, reverse engineering involves deconstructing individual components like the impeller or diffuser of larger compressors. End-users often use this approach when purchasing a replacement impeller or any other compressor part from an OEM is not an option. In some cases, where older impellers that have not been manufactured for 20 years or more, the original 2D drawings are no longer available.  When this is the case, the only way to obtain the design of an original compressor is through reverse engineering.

Reverse engineering requires a series of steps to gather precise information on a product’s dimensions. Once collected, the data can be stored in digital archives. Figure 1 (left) shows the typical process of reverse engineering. In figure 1 (right), one can see the scanning process of the centrifugal impeller using a laser scanner.

Figure 1 (left) Reverse Engineering Process (right) Scanning of impeller
Figure 1 (left) Reverse Engineering Process (right) Scanning of Impeller. Source

To reverse engineer an impeller or any other part of compressor, an organization will typically acquire the component and take it apart to examine its internal mechanisms. This way, engineers can unveil information about the original design and construction of the product. One can start by analyzing the dimensions and attributes of the impeller and make measurements of the blade widths, diameters and angles, as these dimensions often relate to the compressor’s performance. Read More

Hans von Ohain – The Other Father of Jet Engines and the Gas Turbine

The question of who invented the jet engine is often met with two different answers, and neither is really wrong. In fact, we posed this question on our LinkedIn page, and got the same mixed results seen elsewhere.  Both Sir Frank Whittle and Hans von Ohain were responsible for inventing the turbojet engine at the same time. While Dr. von Ohain knew of Sir Frank’s work, he did not draw information from, while Sir Frank was unaware that anyone else was designing a turbojet engine.  While we’ve covered Sir Frank Whittle before, today we’ll be looking at the life of Hans von Ohain, his invention of the turbojet, and his contributions to turbomachinery engineering.

Dr. Hans von Ohain
Dr. Hans von Ohain

Dr. Hans Joachim Pabst von Ohain was born on December 14, 1911 in Dessau, Germany. He went to school at the University of Göttingen where he received his PhD in Physics and Aerodynamics in 1935. During his studies and following his graduation, he was captivated by  aviation and airplane propulsion, with a specific interest in developing an aircraft that did not rely on a piston-driven propeller. According to the National Aviation Hall of Fame, he “conceived the idea for jet propulsion in 1933 when he realized that the great noise and vibrations of the propeller piston engines seemed to destroy the smoothness and steadiness of flying”. (1) Read More