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AIAA 2011-5932

47th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference & Exhibit


31 July - 03 August 2011, San Diego, California

Progress Report on Preliminary Design


of the LE-X Turbopump
Makoto.Kojima1 and Akihide.Kurosu2
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan, 305-8505
Masaharu.Uchiumi Satoshi.Takada and Keiichiro.Noda
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, Kakuda, Miyagi, Japan, 981-1525
and
Tsutomu.Mizuno3
IHI Corporation, Mizuho, Tokyo, Japan,190-1297

JAXA has been conducting technology demonstration of the next generation booster
engine called LE-X. The LE-X engine is a new cryogenic booster engine which has higher
thrust, higher reliability and lower cost compared to the existing engines, and will be applied
to the Japans next primary launch system. Its engine system adopts the expander-bleedcycle run on the LH2/LOX. The LE-X turbopumps, which are key components in the engine,
have technical issues of developing rotordynamics with huge turbine, high turbine efficiency,
high reliable rotor system and low-cost manufacturing technique. In order to clear the issues
and to avoid the risks at preliminary design phase, several component tests and analysis
were conducted aiming to validate the preliminary design. It appears that preliminary
design of the LE-X components is successfully conducted. Feasibility of the components
designs and the manufacturing process will also be confirmed in the preliminary design
phase. Based on these studies, we will continue the turbopumps design of the prototype LEX engine.

I. Introduction

apan Aerospace Exploration Agency(JAXA) has been conducting technology demonstration of the Japans next
generation booster engine called LE-X. 1-4 The LE-X engine is a new cryogenic booster engine which is capable
of making a higher thrust, higher reliability and lower cost compared to the existing engines, and will be applied to
the Japans next primary launch system. This engine driven by LH2/LOX adopts the expander-bleed-cycle as an
engine cycle system.
It is generally difficult to apply the expander-bleed-cycle to a booster engine because such engine requires
turbopumps to have high turbopump efficiency and large shaft power. In order to achieve the high turbopump
efficiency, the LE-X turbopumps have huge turbine. Therefore as compared with Japanese traditional rocket engine
turbopumps, the LE-X turbopumps have to overcome technical issues of rotordynamics with huge turbine, high
turbine efficiency, high reliable rotor system and low-cost manufacturing technique. The preliminary design of the
LE-X engine system was performed in the past several years. In order to attain an optimal balance among required
performance, high reliability and low cost, the LE-X turbopumps are being studied using advanced simulation
technologies. At first, we listed technical issues, supposed failure modes and risks of turbopump system, pump,
turbine, bearing and seal for each turbopumps. In order to clear the issues and avoid the risks at preliminary design
phase, several component tests and analysis were conducted to validate the preliminary design. This paper reports
our progress of a preliminary design and analysis for the LE-X turbopump.

Engineer, Space Transportation Propulsion Research and Development Center, kojima.makoto@jaxa.jp


Associate Senior Engineer, Space Transportation Propulsion Research and Development Center, AIAA Member
3
Professional Engineer, Space technology Group, Reseach & Engineering Division.
1
American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
2

Copyright 2011 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. All rights reserved.

II. Specification of the LE-X turbopumps


The LE-X engine adopts chamber expander-bleed-cycle system and realize throttling operation. The fuel
turbopump is driven by regeneratively heated hydrogen gas with a temperature of about 550K. As the energy of
turbine driving gas depends on the combustion chamber heat load, temperature of the gas is not so high compared
with that of the staged combustion cycle or the gas generator cycle which utilizes the combustion energy. Therefore
a technical challenge is to generate the required shaft power of the turbopump by the turbine driving gas with low
enthalpy and low flow rate. Figure 1 illustrates the reference characteristics and schematic diagram of the LE-X. The
characteristics of the LE-X turbopump is summarized in Table.1. The 100% vacuum thrust of the LE-X engine is set
at about 1,500 kN. The shaft powers of the fuel turbopump (FTP) and the oxygen turbopump (OTP) are
approximately 15,000 kW and 6,000 kW, respectively. The key design of each component is described in more
detail in the following section.
Engine cycle:Chamber expander bleed

LH2

Table 1. LE-X turbopump characteristics.

LOX

MIX
OTP

Pump mass flow rate


FTP
CCV

MCC

Unit

FTP

OTP

kg/s

49.7

293.3

MFV

MOV

TCV

NE

Figure 1. LE-Xs reference characteristics and diagram.

Turbine mass flow rate

kg/s

7.9

6.8

Pump pressure rise

MPa

17.6

19.2

Turbine expansion ratio

9.3

1.4

Pump efficiency

0.75

0.75

Turbine efficiency

0.5

0.7

Power

kW

16148

6277

III. Fuel turbopump


Figure 2 presents the three-dimensional model of the LE-X FTP. The LE-X
FTP suctions about 50 kg/s of liquid hydrogen (LH2) from a fuel tank and
pressurizes it from 0.5 MPa to 18 MPa so as to inject it into the high pressure
combustion chamber. In order for the turbopumps of the expander-bleed-cycle
engine to achieve high large shaft power required for booster engine, high turbine
performance is required.

A. Rotor system
High turbine efficiency and large shaft power of turbopumps are required
Figure 2. Three-dimensional
with low-enthalpy turbine driving fluid. Therefore, one of the characteristic
model of the LE-X FTP.
aspects of the FTP rotor system is its huge turbine pitch circle diameter. Since
such a rotor system causes a large overhang, a large amplitude shaft vibration is
induced without an appropriate damping or an adequate shaft stiffness. In addition, in general, the rocket
turbopumps are forced to be operated at high speed conditions for smaller and lighter body. This leads us to spend
much time and energy trying to reduce the rotor vibration in the presence of unsteady hydrodynamic forces in the
rotating impeller and inducer, and destabilizing forces of the seals and Thomas forces of turbines. Higher bearing
stiffness causes lower damping. However, lower bearing stiffness causes lower margin for avoiding critical speed.
Since the FTP is designed to be operated at higher speed than the first critical speed, the shaft diameter, shaft length
and bearing of the FTP is designed in order to attain an optimal balance among internal damping, overhang, bearing
stiffness and critical speed.
B. Inducer
A two-stage inducer is adopted to achieve high pump efficiency, high pump-head and short-length disk-shaft for
the FTP. Hydrodynamic characteristics, cavitation instability and rotor dynamics of the two-stage inducer are
evaluated by using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analyses. Based on the results, the number of rotor blade
was decided for each stage. In addition, the design parameters which affect the inducer performance and instability
were extracted. To determine the optimum inducer design, each design parameters were allocated to the orthogonal
array. A relationship between the evaluation functions and the control parameters are visualized by the factor effect
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diagram. Using the factor effect analysis, response surface of each evaluation function is calculated. Based on the
calculated results, the optimum inducer design was determined. In addition, experimental water flow test was
separately performed to investigate the performance of the inducer. Pump-head and suction performance are in
agreement with the analysis results.
Presently, JAXA is conducting benchmark activities with CNES in France to mutually improve cryogenic
inducer design/evaluation technologies. After designing and fabricating each inducer, the benchmark tests were
performed at each test facility. The tests were performed with water and liquid nitrogen (LN2) by JAXA, and with
water and Freon by CNES. Figure 3 shows a photograph of water tunnel test of JAXA inducer. Suction performance,
cavitation performance, cavitaion instability and thermodynamic effect were evaluated in these tests. In the
performance evaluation, comparison of CFD results with test results of both JAXA inducer and CNES inducer
indicated good agreement. Furthermore, the performance of the designed inducer met the requirements of LE-X
reference characteristics.
In the cavitation performance, significant difference in the head break point between CFD and experimental
comparison with LN2 water and Freon case is seen in Figure 5. In addition, there are significant differences in the
head break point among each flow rate as seen in Figure 6. When the flow rate at the inducer decreases, the
differences in the head break point widen toward lower cavitation number. That is because of the well-known
thermo-dynamic effects. In the cavitation instability, AC (Attached Cavitation) and RC (Rotating Cavitation) is
observed in some tests of both of JAXA inducer and CNES inducer. Figure 4 displays the trial result of unsteady
CFD performed to estimate cavity shape. JAXA and CNES exchanged both experimental test and CFD results each
other to improve each analyzing technique.

comparison

Figure 3. Water tunnel test


of JAXAs inducer.

Figure 4. Cavity shape of JAXAs


inducer predicted by unsteady CFD.
Exp J2 water@6000rpm, 90%Q with step casing

1.20

Exp J3 LN2@9000rpm, 90%Q without step casing


Exp J2 Water@6000rpm, 100%Q with step casing
Exp J3 LN2@9000rpm, 100%Q without step casing

1.00

Exp J2 Water@6000rpm, 110%Q with step casing

0.60
CFD J3 LN2@9000rpm without step casing

0.40

Exp J3 LN2@9000rpm without step casing


CFD J3 Water@5000rpm without step casign
Exp. J2 water@6000rpm with step casing

0.20

CFD J3 Freon@5000rpm without step casign

Head coef. (-)

Head ratio (H/Href)

Exp J3 LN2@9000rpm, 110%Q without step casing


0.80

Exp. J1 Freon@5000rpm with step casing

0.00
Cavitation Parameter

Figure 5. Cavitation performance of


JAXAs inducer from CFD analysis
and experiment results.

CP

Figure 6. Cavitation performance of


JAXAs inducer in each flow rate.

C. Impeller
As mentioned before, because the LE-X engine adopts expander-bleed-cycle, its pump discharging pressure is
not so high as that of the staged combustion cycle. Figure 7 shows pump-head and efficiency of LE-X compared
with LE-7A that adopts staged combustion cycle. It is possible to achieve the reference characteristics of pump-head
of the LE-X with a two-stage inducer and a single-stage impeller. A single-stage impeller is adopted to achieve high
pump efficiency and short-length disk-shaft. In order to realize the robust throttling operation, the shaft length is an
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important parameter for avoiding the critical speeds. The simple configuration of single-stage impeller allows a
working operation of the rotor under the second critical rotor speed, and also contributes to accomplish the cost
reduction and high reliability.
We consider the adoption of open impeller to single-stage impeller of FTP to reduce the cost. To confirm the
feasibility of open impeller design, an experimental open impeller was designed based on the closed impeller of LE7A FTP. Hydrodynamic characteristics and structural strength of the open impeller are evaluated by combining CFD
and finite element method (FEM). The FEM result presented in Figure 8 shows the high stress at the center of the
impeller and the base of the blade. In order to validate the FEM result, the rotational speed of impeller will be
increased to the point of burst in the impeller spin test which is planed to be carried out this year. Then, the optimum
design is determined by a method that each design parameters were allocated to the orthogonal array and using the
factor effect analysis and response surface similar to that for the inducer. Based on the results, experimental water
flow test was performed to investigate the validity of the design approach for the open impeller. The threedimensional model of the FTP impeller is shown in Figure 9.
The optimum design of the diffuser and swirl breaker were also determined by similar method for the inducer. In
the design process of the swirl breaker, a CFD analysis was performed to estimate the pressure distribution and the
swirl speed ratio. An example of the CFD result is shown in Figure 10. As seen in Figure 10, the flowfield is
complicated in the swirl breaker. Based on these CFD results, the relationship between the evaluation functions and
the control parameters are visualized by factor effect diagram. It was confirmed by these CFD results that the groove
of the swirl breaker made pressure variation. Therefore, the number of grooves were designed properly to avoid the
natural frequency of the impeller.
Volute and guide vane were designed to meet the optimum design of impeller and inducer. Figure 11 shows a
CFD result of the volute to estimate pressure distribution in the volute. This confirms that separated flow causes the
flow velocity bias was seen in the initial design. The velocity causes efficiency loss. Then the design of impeller was
modified. Thus, the impeller design was improved and the flow velocity bias was reduced in the CFD result.
Experimental water flow test with inducer are planned to validate the preliminary pump design.

Figure 8. FEM result of FTP impeller.

Figure 7. Pump
head
and
efficiency of LE-X and LE-7A.
Figure 9. Prototype of FTP impeller.

Figure 11. Flow velocity distribution CFD result of volute.


left: initial design. right: improved design.
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Figure 10. An example of CFD


result of swirl breaker.

D. Turbine
The FTP is recognized as a potentially high risk component because the turbine efficiency is one of the main
drivers of engine system performance. Therefore, it is important to estimate turbine efficiency precisely. In addition,
the expander bleed cycle needs high-pressure ratio turbine for FTP due to its configuration. 2stage impulse turbine is
adopted for FTP. The performance and structural strength of the stator vane and rotor vane of supersonic turbine
were estimated by CFD / FEM. Then, the optimum design was determined by using the orthogonal array similar to
inducer.
As other design approach, we use genetic algorithm and unsteady CFD to achieve efficiency optimum. Figure 12
shows an example of unsteady CFD result. It was confirmed that the efficiency target can be achieved in each
analysis. However, reflection of shock wave at 1st stator and separated flow at 2nd stator were confirmed in these
analysis. To prevent these issues, minor change was conducted at these blades design. Figure 13 shows the CFD
result of the modified design. In order to verify the CFD analysis, turbine rig test is underway conducted. In the test,
turbine efficiency is confirmed.
In addition, turbine manifold was designed to meet the optimum design of turbine. Figure 14 shows CFD result
of pressure distribution in the turbine manifold.

Figure 12. An example of unsteady


CFD result of turbine.

Figure 14. CFD


turbine manifold.

Figure 13. CFD


modified design.

result

of

result

of

FTP

the

E. Bearing and Shaft seal


The bearing and shaft seal are key components for high reliability. The bearing and shaft seal for the FTP of the
LE-X engine are required high reliability compared with that of the LE-7A despite the condition of high load and
high rotational speed. A hybrid ceramic ball bearing is applied to the FTP. A lot of fundamental tests of the bearing
were conducted in Japan. The hybrid ceramic ball bearing is expected to reduce amount of heat generation in the
bearing. Since a rotor system of the FTP which has huge turbine causes a large overhang, high stiffness bearing is
required. Taking into account the damping of the casing, a large-diameter bearing was adopted to achieve the target
of the system stiffness. Similarly, the number of ball, the contact angle and raceway curvature were determined to
achieve the target of contact pressure and radial clearance. On the other hand, various seal types were compared in
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terms of performance, cost and development risk for the FTP shaft seal. As the result of the trade-off, mechanical
seal type was selected. However, each part has its own technical challenges. Because of the thick shaft, contact area
of the seal is large. High rotating speed and differential pressure are unfavorable conditions for the seal. Additionally,
seal space should be as reduced as possible to reduce the overhang. The bearing and shaft seal system test will be
conducted to mitigate the considered risks within a year.

IV. Oxygen turbopump


The oxygen turbopump consists of a single-stage impeller with a traditional single-inducer, and a two-stage
turbine. A three-dimensional model of the OTP is shown in Figure 15. The OTP turbine efficiency is also an
important parameter as well as the FTP because the turbine efficiency gives a large impact on determining the
turbine diameter. The inlet temperature and pressure of OTP turbine are low compared to the FTP, therefore
relatively large turbine is required to generate sufficient energy. Similar to the results in the FTP, the performance
and structural strength of the turbine were estimated by CFD / FEM. Then, the optimum design was determined by
use of the orthogonal array similar to that for the FTP. A rigid rotor is usually adopted for stabilization, but the high
rotational speed of a rocket turbopump blocks a working operation of the rotor under the first critical rotor speed for
a general rotor configuration. The huge turbine will cause a large amplitude shaft vibration. The turbine side bearing
is located in the back of the turbine disks to realize the rigid rotor. We considered the adoption of oil-lubrication
type to the bearing. A photograph of the oil-lubrication bearing is shown in Figure 16. However, each part has some
technical issues. One issue is operational temperature range of oil-lubrication bearing. The ambient temperature of
the bearing is expected to drop to about 160 K during the pre-cooling, and to rise to about 460 K during operation.
Therefore, usable temperature range of oil-lubrication bearing needs to be clarified. Candidate oil with wide
temperature range was selected from synthetic, JET, fluorine and cyclopentane oil. The rotational tests were
performed to investigate the torque of each selected oil in low ambient temperature. Figure 17 shows torque
characteristics of JET oil as an example of the rotational test result. As shown in the result, rapid increase of torque
was confirmed at about -80. When the starting temperature decreases, the starting torque rises. From these results,
operational temperature range of each oil was evaluated.
The other issue is reactivity with hydrogen. Because the LE-X engine which adopts the expander-bleed-cycle is
run on LH2/LOX propellant, the ambient gas of the bearing is hydrogen. Thus, oil reactivity with hydrogen needs to
be clarified. We conducted further hydrogen reactivity tests to examine corrosion of several engine materials. The
hydrogen reactivity test base material is summarized in Table.2. The high temperature rotational test will be
conducted to investigate amount of heat generation of the bearing. The pump side slinger was designed, and the
rotational test is underway conducted to examine whether it is necessary or not. Figure 18 is photograph of the
rotational test of the slinger. Finally, a bearing and shaft seal system test with a dummy inducer, impeller and turbine
will be conducted to mitigate the risks within two years.

Oil-lubrication bearing

Slinger

Figure 16. Oil-lubrication bearing.


Figure 15. A 3D model of the OTP.

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20 rpm AVG
60 rpm AVG
120 rpm AVG
20 rpm
60 rpm
120 rpm

1,000

-3

Torque, 10 ,Nm

800
600
400

Table 2. Hydrogen reactivity test base material.


No.
Materials
1 Alloy718
2 Alloy625
3 SS304
4 SS316L
5 A5056H34
6 PEEK
7 FLUORIC GUM

Application
Structural materials
of Turbopump
Triblogical materials
(resin, gum)

200
0
-100

-80

-60
-40
-20
0
Bearing Temperature,

No.
Materials
Application
8 SS440C
9 BEARPHITE
Triblogical
10 SNCM
materials (metal)
11 Ag
12 Sealing material
13 A286
Turbine materials
14 Ti-6Al-4V
15 Ti-17

20

Figure 17. Torque characteristics of


JET oil.

Figure 18. Rotational test of slinger.

V. Conclusion
At the present stage, it appears that the preliminary design of the LE-X components is successfully conducted.
As a next step, the feasibility of the components designs and the manufacturing process will be examined. Based on
these studies, we will continue to design the turbopumps for the prototype LE-X engine.

Acknowledgments
The authors wish to acknowledge member of the inducer cooperation between CNES and JAXA, including
Mr.B.Pouffary and Mr.M.Illig.

References
Papers
1
Uchiumi, H., Kojima, M., Okita, K. and Mizuno, T.: A preliminary design study of rotor system for LE-X turbopump,
AJCPP2010-069.
2
Kojima, M., Sunakawa, H., Kurosu, A., Uchiumi, M., Okita, K., Ogawara, A., Onga, T., Preliminary Design and Analysis
for the LE-X Engine Components, AIAA2009-5485.
3
Kurosu, A., Sunakawa, H., Yamanishi, N., Okita, K., Ogawara, A. and Onga, T., LE-X Japanese Next Liquid Booster
Engine, AIAA2008-4665.
4
Kurosu, A., Sunakawa, H., Kojima, M., Yamanishi, N., Noda, K., Ogawara, A., Tamura, T., Mizuno, T. and Kobayashi, S.,
Progress on the LE-X Cryogenic Booster Engine, 4th EUCASS.

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