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 - CAE
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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Turbomachinery and Rockets – a Historical/Technical Evolution

Introduction

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

Rockets

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

Back to Basics: What Makes a Good Pump?

Everyone is familiar with pumps, but how many people really think about how much depends on this ubiquitous invention? The scope of pump applications is wide: distribution and circulation of water in water supply and heat supply systems, irrigation in agriculture, in the oil industry, in fire extinguishing systems, etc.

A pump is a hydraulic machine designed to move fluid and impart energy to it. A schematic diagram of a simple pumping unit is presented below.

Figure 1 Pumping Unit Diagram
Figure 1: Pumping Unit Diagram
1 – intake valve; 2 – suction pipeline; 3 – vacuum gauge; 4 – pump; 5 – manometer; 6 – check valve; 7 – gate valve; 8 – pressure pipeline

Positive Displacement and Dynamic Pumps

According to the principle of operation, pumps can be divided into two main groups: positive displacement and dynamic. In positive displacement pumps, a certain volume of the pumped liquid is cut off and moved from the inlet to the pressure head, where additional energy is supplied to it. In pumps with dynamic action, the increase in energy occurs due to the interaction of the liquid with a rotating working body.

The most widely used pumps are centrifugal pumps which are of the dynamic type. The principle of centrifugal pumps uses a rotating impeller to create a vacuum in order to move the fluid. The impeller rotates within the housing and reduces pressure at the inlet. This motion then drives fluid to the outside of the pump’s housing, which increases the pressure.

These pumps benefit from a simple design and lower maintenance requirements and costs. This makes them suited to applications where the pump is used often or continuously run.

Figure 2 Centrifugal Pump
Figure 2a: Centrifugal Pump
Centrifugal Pump Designed using AxSTREAM
Figure 2b: Centrifugal Pump Designed using AxSTREAM

In most cases, the pumps are electrically driven, but if the pump is of high power and high speed, then these pumps are driven by steam turbines. Read More

Considerations in Industrial Pump Selection

Pumps are machines that transfer liquids from suction to discharge by converting mechanical energy from a rotating impeller into what is known as head. The pressure applied to the liquid forces the fluid to flow at the required rate and to overcome frictional losses in piping, valves, fittings, and process equipment.

When it comes to pump selection, reliability and efficiency go hand-in-hand. Generally, a pump that has been selected and controlled properly for its normal operating points will operate near its best efficiency point (BEP) flow, with low forces exerted on the mechanical components and low vibration — all of which result in optimal reliability.

There are several factors like process fluid properties, end use requirements, environmental conditions, pump material, inlet conditions, and others which should be considered while selecting pumps for industrial applications. Selecting the right pump type and sizing it correctly are critical to the success of any pump application. Pumping applications include constant or variable flow rate requirements, serving single or networked loads, and consisting of open loops (nonreturn or liquid delivery) or closed loops (return systems).

Some crucial factors considered while pump selections include:

Fluid Properties: The pumping fluid properties can significantly affect the choice of pump. Key considerations include:

  • Acidity/alkalinity and chemical composition. Corrosive and acidic fluids can degrade pumps and should be considered when selecting pump materials.
  • Operating temperature: Pump materials and expansion, mechanical seal components, and packing materials need to be considered with pumped fluids that are hotter than 200°F.
  • Solids concentrations/particle sizes: When pumping abrasive liquids such as industrial slurries, selecting a pump that will not clog or fail prematurely depends on particle size, hardness, and the volumetric percentage of solids.
  • Specific gravity: It affects the energy required to lift and move the fluid and must be considered when determining pump power requirements.
  • Vapor pressure and Viscosity: Proper consideration of the fluid’s vapor pressure will help to minimize the risk of cavitation. High viscosity fluids result in reduced centrifugal pump performance and increased power requirements. It is particularly important to consider pump suction-side line losses when pumping viscous fluids.

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Materials of Construction: It is always required to check the compatibility of materials of construction with the process liquid or any other liquids the pump might encounter. The initial cost of these materials is normally the first consideration. The operational costs, replacement costs and longevity of service and repair costs will, however, determine the actual cost of the pump during its lifetime. Charts are available to check the chemical compatibility and identify the most appropriate materials of construction for the pump.

The impact of the impeller material on the life of a pump under cavitation conditions is shown in Figure 1. As an example, changing from mild steel (reliability factor of 1.0) to stainless steel (reliability factor of 4.0) would increase the impeller life from cavitation damage by a factor of four. Hard coatings, such as certain ceramics, can also increase the impeller life under cavitating conditions.

Material Cavitation Life Factors
Figure 1 Material Cavitation life factors

Pump Sizing and Performance Specifications: The desired pump discharge is needed to accurately size the piping system, determine friction head losses, construct a system curve, and select a pump and drive motor. Process requirements can be achieved by providing a constant flow rate, or by using a throttling valve or variable speed drives. Read More

Modeling and Analysis of a Submarine’s Diesel Engine Lubrication System

Even in today’s age of underwater nuclear power, the majority of the world’s submarines still use diesel engines as their main source of mechanical power, as they have done since the turn of the century. A diesel engine must operate at its optimum performance to ensure a long and reliable life of engine components and to achieve peak efficiency. To operate or keep running a diesel engine at its optimum performance, the correct lubrication is required. General motors V16-278A type engine is normally found on fleet type submarines and is shown in Figure 1. This engine has two banks of 8 cylinders, each arranged in a V-design with 40 degree between banks. It is rated at 1600 bhp at 750 rpm and equipped with mechanical or solid type injection and has a uniform valve and port system of scavenging[1].

Figure 1. GM V16-278A, Submarine Diesel Engine. SOURCE: [1]
Figure 1. GM V16-278A, Submarine Diesel Engine. SOURCE: [1]
Lubrication system failure is the most expensive and frequent cause of damage, followed by incorrect maintenance and poor fuel management. Improper lubrication oil management combined with abrasive particle contamination cause the majority of damage. Therefore, an efficient lubrication system is essential to minimize risk of engine damage.

The purpose of an efficient lubrication system in a submarine’s diesel engine is to:

  1. Prevent metal to metal contact between moving parts in the engine;
  2. Aid in engine cooling by removing heat generated due to friction;
  3. Form a seal between the piston rings and the cylinder walls; and
  4. Aid in keeping the inside of the engine free of any debris or impurities which are introduced during engine operation.

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All of these requirements should be met for an efficient lubrication system. To achieve this, the necessary amount of lubricant oil flow rate with appropriate pressure should circulate throughout the entire system, which includes each component such as bearings, gears,  piston cooling, and lubrication. If the required amount of flow rate does not flow or circulate properly to each corner of the system or rotating components, then cavitation will occur due to adverse pressure and excessive heat will be generated due to less mass flow rate. This will lead to major damage of engine components and reduced lifetime.
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Modeling a Ground Source Heat Pump

Ground source heat pumps (GSHP) are one of the fastest growing applications of renewable energy in the world, with annual increase of 10% in about 30 countries over the past 15 years.  Its main advantage is that it uses normal ground or ground water temperatures to provide heating, cooling and domestic hot water for residential and commercial buildings. GSHP’s are proving to be one of the most reliable and cost-effective heating/cooling systems that are currently available on the market and have the potential of becoming the heating system of choice to many future consumers, because of its capacity for providing a variety of services such as heat generation, hot water, humidity control, and air cooling. Additionally,  they have the potential to reduce primary energy consumption, and subsequently provide lower carbon emissions, as well as operate more quietly and have a longer life span than traditional HVAC systems. The costs associated with GSHP systems are gradually decreasing every year due to successive technological improvements, which makes them more appealing to new consumers.

The basic purpose of a GSHP is to transfer heat from the ground (or a body of water) to the inside of a building. The heat pump’s process can be reversed, in which case it will extract heat from the building and release it into the ground. Thus, the ground is the main heat source and sink. During winter, the ground will provide the heat whereas in the summer it will absorb the heat.

A GSHP comes in two basic configurations: ground-coupled (closed-loop) and groundwater (open loop) systems, which are installed horizontally and vertically, or in wells and lakes. The type chosen depends upon various factors such as the soil and rock type at the installation, the heating and cooling load required, the land available as well as the availability of a water well, or the feasibility of creating one. Figure 1 shows the diagrams of these systems.

Two Basic Configurations
Figure 1. Two Basic Configurations of GSHP Systems. SOURCE: [1]
In the ground-coupled system (Figure 1a), a closed loop of pipe, placed either horizontally (1 to 2 m deep) or vertically (50 to 100 m deep), is placed in the ground and a water-antifreeze solution is circulated through the plastic pipes to either collect heat from the ground in the winter or reject heat to the ground in the summer. The open loop system (Figure 1b), runs groundwater or lake water directly in the heat exchanger and then discharges it into another well, stream, lake, or on the ground depending upon local laws. Between the two, ground-coupled (closed loop) GSHP’s are more popular because they are very adaptable.
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Turbomachinery System and Component Training: Something for Everyone!

Mechanical engineering is an ever-changing field, and we want to be there to help engineers stay ahead of the curve, even while they are flattening it. In that spirit, we wanted to share with you our different training options that are available now. Whether you are looking to brush up on the fundamentals, or evaluate a software platform, this is a great time to train and explore the latest and greatest in turbomachinery engineering.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Private Corporate Trainings Online

First and foremost, the best most comprehensive training you can get from SoftInWay is a private session with one of SoftInWay’s lead engineers and your team. Why is this the best training option? A couple of reasons:

  • Courses are entirely customizable: The scope of these private training courses is tailored to your specific needs. Are you looking to learn the fundamentals? Or perhaps you want to expand your team’s R&D capabilities when it comes to turbomachinery, rotor dynamics, and 1D thermal systems? Whatever the application, we’ll work with you to develop a course curriculum which brings the most value to you and your team.
  • One-on-one consultation with our expert engineers on individual projects and challenges. Our engineering expertise ranges from flowpath design on a turbomachine, to rotor dynamics, as well as secondary flows/multiphase flows, and other all-encompassing projects such as liquid rocket engine design.
  • ll registrants get a 1-month license of the relevant AxSTREAM modules. During the class, users will be familiarized with the ins and outs of AxSTREAM, and be able to make use of AxSTREAM’s capabilities for 1 month afterwards.

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The class can be as long or as short as you need and scheduled around you and your team. Read More

Pump Design to Feed an Elevated Water Storage Tank – Reduce NPSHr and Improve Efficiency

This blog post will show an example of a pump design task for a specific application, using the AxSTREAM® pump design and analysis code. Centrifugal pumps are designed to meet the requirements of head rise at the discharge, while at the same time the suction performance at the pump inlet must be free of cavitation over the entire operating range.  This requirement places an additional constraint on a successful pump design and a good example of AxSTREAM® capabilities.

Pump Installation and Performance Requirements

The pump installation is illustrated in Figure 1. The pump will suck water from the bottom of a reservoir and discharge into a raised tank that is 145 feet above the pump. The pump should be designed for optimum efficiency and will be driven by a variable speed electric motor. The design flow rate is 2,000 gallons per minute (GPM) and it must operate free of cavitation at all operating points.

pump installation
Figure 1. The pump installation showing the water reservoir feeding the pump inlet with a 15 feet total suction head, and the discharge tank that is at a height of 145 feet above the pump.

The key performance goals and requirements for the pump are summarized below:

Pumped liquid: water
Density, ρ: 62.3 lbm/ft3
Volume Flow rate: 2,000 GPM
Inlet Temperature, Tt1: 527.7 Rankine
Vapor Pressure, Pv: 0.46011 psi
Static Head Rise: 145 feet

Design and analysis approach

Using AxSTREAM Preliminary Design Solver, thousands of flow path geometries can be generated that satisfy the user defined boundary conditions and geometric parameters within given constraints. By determining key parameters such as suction cavitation performance early at the beginning of the design process, users can minimize development cost while maximizing the pump efficiency. In addition to being able to generate the optimum flow path and pump blades to meet the design point goals, users can also analyze off-design operating conditions for the pump in a system environment that can have changing boundary conditions, thus placing different requirements on the pump.
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Pump Performance Improvement Using AxSTREAM ION

As pumps have numerous uses, they constitute a significant part of energy consuming equipment.  Therefore, pump efficiency plays a significant role in energy savings and operating cost. The design of a centrifugal pump is more challenging to reduce overall cost of the pump and increasing demand for higher performance.

Redesign Pump with Smooth Beta and Theta Distributions
Figure 1. Centrifugal Pump in AxSTREAM

There are two traditional approaches to design a pump for new requirements. One approach is to redesign or modify an existing impeller of centrifugal pump for increasing flow rate/head and efficiency. The modification will also involve selection of different geometric parameters and then optimizing them with the goal of performance improvement in terms of efficiency, increase the head, reduce cross flow and secondary incidence flows. The other approach is to design a pump from the preliminary stage to meet the desired design objectives. Most of the time, the designer knows what they need to achieve (performance target) but the challenge is in how to achieve this target within the given constraints (geometry, cost, manufacturability etc.).
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Unsteady Flow Simulation in Hydraulic Systems

An unsteady flow is one where the parameters change with respect to time. In general, any liquid flow is unsteady. But if a hydraulic system is working at constant boundary conditions, then the parameters of the fluid flow change slowly; thus this flow is considered steady. At the same time, if the parameters of the fluid flow oscillate over time relative to some constant value, then it called quasi-steady flow 1.

In practice, most fluid flows are steady or quasi-steady. Examples of the three flows are presented in Figure 1. Steady flow is presented by a simple pipe. The quasi-steady flow is represented by a sharpened edge channel. The unsteady flow is presented by an outflow from a reservoir.

Figure 1 - Different Types of Fluid Flow
Figure 1 – Different Types of Fluid Flow
Different Cases of Unsteady Flow

During operations, hydraulic systems act for long intervals at steady conditions which are called operating modes. Change between two different operating modes occurs over a short time interval (called a transient mode). If any hydraulic system works more than 95% of the time at these operating modes though, why is the unsteady flow is so important? Because the loads depend on time intervals. If the load is less, then the maximum system pressure is higher. Read More