Russian engineers have test success with pulse detonation engine


Stage one testing of a pulse detonation engine for rockets by engineers at Russia’s Rostec group has shown up to a 50% increase in thrust compared to conventional engines.

Pulse detonation engines (PDE) could be used in advanced rocket and space systems, hypersonic aircraft and orbital spaceplanes. They work by detonating a fuel and oxidiser mixture within a chamber to combust, with the heat and high pressure gas shock wave pulses that occur after ignition triggering future detonations and producing thrust.

No PDE has ever been put into production and used, but several prototype engines have been developed and tested, including for US research agency’s DARPA’s Blackswift test aircraft in 2008. Researchers in the USA also successfully tested an experimental rotating detonation engine for use in space rockets last year.

Engineers have long believed that a PDE could offer higher thermodynamic efficiencies than conventional jet engines. According to a press release, recent testing at the United Engine Corporation (UEC), part of Russian state-owned Rostec group has shown this.

According to a statement from the Rostec aviation cluster at the A. Lyulki Design Bureau, specific thrust was up to 50% higher than the performance of traditional power plants during testing of its demonstrator PDE and it displayed the required performance characteristics.

“This will prospectively increase the maximum range and payload mass of aircraft by 1.3–1.5 times. The design will be able to be applied, for example, on orbital spaceplanes, supersonic and hypersonic aircraft, and future-generation rocket and space systems”, said Rostec.

Aircraft equipped with pulse detonation engines will have better flight dynamics and maneuverability. The engine type can also be used to develop traditional rocket and air-jet propulsion systems or their support systems, added the company.

Evgeny Marchukov, general design director of UEC’s A. Lyulki Design Bureau said, “The simplicity of the design and its relatively low requirements for gas-dynamic process values allow us to integrate solutions developed on the previous engine generations. This provides a great commercial and economic advantage in comparison with the more traditional engines that are currently under development.”

According to Rostec, its PDE demonstrator has been in development since 2016, when it won the “Best innovative project in the areas of critical technologies in the Russian Federation” competition in Skolkovo Innovation Centre in Moscow.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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