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Trans. Japan Soc. Aero. Space Sci.

Vol. 44, No. 145, pp. 155163, 2001

Developmental History of Liquid Oxygen Turbopumps for the LE-7 Engine


By Kenjiro K AMIJO,1) Hitoshi YAMADA,2) Norio S AKAZUME3) and Shogo WARASHINA4)
1) Tohoku

University, Institute of Fluid Science, Sendai, Japan


Aerospace Laboratory, Kakuda Research Center, Kakuda, Japan
3) National Space Development Agency of Japan, Tokyo, Japan
4) Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co., Tokyo, Japan

2) National

(Received February 2nd, 2001)

The first stage of the H-2 rocket used a 110-ton thrust liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen, pump-fed engine, the LE7. This engine required high-pressure and high-power liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen turbopumps to achieve the
two-stage combustion cycle in which the combustion pressure is around 13 MPa. Furthermore, it was very important to
operate both turbopumps at higher rotational speeds to obtain a smaller, lighter-weight engine because the LE-7 had not
low-speed, low-pressure pumps ahead of both the main pumps. The present paper shows the design, test results, and
modifications that had been performed until a flight-type liquid oxygen turbopump for the LE-7 engine was completed.
The liquid oxygen turbopump had been developed by the use of three models, that is, research, prototype, and flight
models.
Key Words:

Rocket, Turbopump, Inducer, Cavitation, LE-7

1. Introduction
The H-2 rocket, Japans previous expendable launch vehicle, which was capable of placing a two-ton payload into
a geostationary orbit, had been successfully operated in six
flights since its first flight in 1994. The seventh flight, however, was unsuccessful because of the failure of the inducer
of the liquid hydrogen pump. This failure was thought to be
caused by the superposition of some complicated phenomena in the inlet portion of the liquid hydrogen pump, which
occurred mainly because of cavitation and backflow of the
inducer.
The first stage of the H-2 rocket used a 110-ton thrust liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen, pump-fed engine, the LE-7. To
obtain high performance, a two-stage combustion cycle was
employed in the engine. The LE-7 engine required highpressure and high-power liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen
turbopumps to achieve the two-stage combustion cycle in
which the combustion pressure is around 13 MPa. Furthermore, it was very important to operate both turbopumps at
higher rotational speeds to obtain a smaller, lighter-weight
engine because the LE-7 engine had no low-speed, lowpressure pumps ahead of both the main pumps. The rotational speeds of the liquid oxygen and hydrogen turbopumps
were 18,300 and 42,500 rpm, respectively.
The present paper shows the design, test results, and modifications that had been performed until a flight-type liquid
oxygen turbopump for the LE-7 engine was completed. The
liquid oxygen turbopump had been developed by the use of
three models, that is, research, prototype, and flight models.
c 2001 The Japan Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences


Presented at 36th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference

& Exhibit, Huntsville, Alabama, July 1619, 2000.

The research model was fabricated to clarify the major design parameters of the liquid oxygen turbopump related to
the hydrodynamics and mechanical configuration. The prototype model was developed to modify the defects that were
found in the research model. The flight type model was produced by minor changes in the prototype model.
2. Design of LE-7 Liquid Oxygen Turbopump
2.1. Mechanical integration1)
The major specifications of the LE-7 liquid oxygen turbopump is presented in Table 1. The three types of the turbopump are shown in Fig. 1. Since the rotational speed of
the turbopump was closely related to the weight of the first
stage of the H-2 rocket, a parametric investigation was carried out to optimize the relationship between the rotational
speed and inlet flow coefficient of the inducer.1) The liquid
oxygen tubopump for the LE-7 has some features in mechanical configuration. The simplification of the rotating assemblies was especially emphasized in the design to avoid rotor
dynamic problems.
The liquid oxygen turbopump consists of a main pump
and a preburner pump that are driven by a single-stage gas
turbine, as shown in Fig. 1. The main pump has a singlestage impeller with an inducer. A large flow rate and higher
suction performance required an increased inlet diameter of
the inducer. Therefore the inducer and the main pump impeller were arranged as shown in the figures. The guide
vanes between the inducer and the main impeller are useful
to support a housing for self-lubricated ball bearings. With
the connection of the main and preburner pump impellers,
an external diffusing passage was selected because the shaft
seal pressure of liquid oxygen would be lower than that of

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Trans. Japan Soc. Aero. Space Sci.

Fig. 1.

Three models used in the development of the LE-7 LOX turbopump.

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K. K AMIJO et al.: Developmental History of Liquid Oxygen Turbopump

Table 1.

157

Major specifications of LE-7 LOX turbopump.

Rotational speeds, rpm

20,000

Main pump
Required NPSH, m

30

Mass flow, kg/s

229.1

Pressure rise, MPa

20.9

Efficiency, %

75

Preburner pump
Mass flow, kg/s

43.8

Pressure rise, MPa

11.4

Efficiency, %

65

Turbine
Power, kW

6,400

Gas inlet pressure, MPa

23.5

Pressure ratio

1.43

Inlet temperature, K

970

Efficiency, %

48.5
Fig. 3.

Fig. 2.

Critical speeds of LOX turbopump.

the internal crossover passage.


To minimize the overhang of a turbine rotor, a singlestage gas turbine is employed at the cost of turbine efficiency,
which results in smaller shaft vibrations than those in a twostage gas turbine. The turbopump could be designed so that
the nominal rotational speed is less than the second critical
speed, as shown in Fig. 2, because the second critical speed
has a mode in which the liquid oxygen pump impellers (including the inducer) whirl.
The axial thrust of the rotor assembly is regulated by a balance piston mechanism as shown in Fig. 3. The pressure of
the balance piston cavity is controlled by two orifices formed
by a back-shroud of the main impeller and a casing. The
turbopump uses a purge of high-pressure, low-temperature
gaseous hydrogen to prevent the turbines working gas (hydrogen rich hot gas) from entering the shaft seal system, as
shown in Fig. 4. Self-lubricated ball bearings are cooled by
liquid oxygen that passes through filters with fine meshes set
in the coolant passages.

Balance piston characteristics.

2.2. Major component design1)


The major inducer design parameters are presented in Table 2. The inducer and its guide vanes were designed to use
helical blades. The blade profile of the inducer consists of
a straight line at the entrance and a circular arc. This inducer is characterized by a low flow coefficient that requires
a small inlet angle. This angle requires a sharp leading edge
to reduce blockage resulting from cavitation to achieve good
suction performance. A large swept-back angle was necessary to reduce stress near the root of the blades. The inducer
was machined from heat-resistant alloy (Inconel 718).
Both the main and the preburner pumps have threedimensional impellers designed by only straight lines, using
a ruled surface method. This made it fairly easy to fabricate
the impellers and to analyze flows through the blade passages. Figure 5 shows the main pump impeller.
The turbine blade profile was designed by using the previously reported method. A partial admission nozzle the
research model employed was changed to a full admission
nozzle in the prototype model because cracks occurred at

Table 2.

Design parameters of LE-7 main pump inducer.

Rotational speed N , rpm

20,000

Required NPSH, m

30.0

Suction specific speed S, m, m3 /s, s1

2.10

Cavitation number

0.017

Number of blades

Inlet flow coefficienta 1

0.083

Outlet flow coefficienta 2

0.104

Inducer head coefficienta

0.097

Tip diameter Dt , mm

149.8

Inlet tip blade angle t1 , deg

7.50

Outlet tip blade angle t2 , deg

9.50

a Values for 1.07 times the quantity of nominal flow.

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Trans. Japan Soc. Aero. Space Sci.

Fig. 4.

Fig. 5.

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Shaft seal system of LOX turbopump.

Main pump impeller.

the roots of the turbine blades. The blades were subjected to


cyclic loads at both ends of the partial admission nozzle arcs.
Furthermore, although the blades and the disk were made
from a solid material in the research model, the blades were
seperated from the disk in both the prototype and flight models to alleviate the stress resulting from pressure fluctuations
and thermal shock at the start and cutoff of the turbopump.
3. Hydraulic Performance24)
The suction performance of the main pump was almost
the same as the predicted one. Figure 6 shows the head coefficient curve of the inducer of the main pump. Crosses (+)
indicate values when the original inducer housing was used,
and circles () represent values when the modified inducer
was used. The original inducer housing caused the unstable
head coefficient curve, which will be mentioned later.
The overall performance of the main and preburner pumps
is shown in Figs. 7 and 8. Pump efficiency was estimated
by adiabatic efficiency, which was obtained by making use
of the temperatures and pressures measured at the inlet and

outlet of both pumps. The main pump of the research model


showed a slightly higher head and efficiency than those of
the prototype model. Six small holes were newly fabricated
in the back-shroud of the main pump impeller of the prototype model to modify the characteristics of the axial thrust
balance of the rotor assembly, which will be mentioned later.
Since the holes increased the internal leakage, the efficiency
and head decreased in the prototype model.
Figure 9 shows the relationship between the turbine efficiency and the isentropic velocity ratio. The turbine efficiency was obtained by making use of the outputs of both
pumps. The turbine with a full admission nozzle of the prototype model showed a slightly lower efficiency than that
of the turbine with a partial admission nozzle, which might
be due to the reduction of blade height to 9.4 mm, from
15.8 mm.
4. Modifications of the Turbopump
4.1. Regulation of axial thrust balance5, 6)
Much effort was made to establish a balance piston system
in which the back-shroud of the main impeller is used as a
balance disk, as shown in Fig. 10. In the initial phase of development using the research model, the pressure in the balance piston cavity between the two orifices was much higher
than predicted, which also caused a bigger balance piston
force than predicted. Figure 11 shows the test results with
the relationship between the rotational speed and inlet orifice
axial clearance (without balancing holes A). The inlet-orifice
axial clearance at the design rotational speed was small, and
a modification was required to increase the clearance. The
balancing holes were newly fabricated at the back-shroud of
the main pump impeller to decrease the pressure in the balance piston cavity as shown in Fig. 10. The addition of balancing holes A made the inlet-orifice axial clearance large
enough, as shown in Fig. 11.
A great amount of time was necessary to find a cause of a

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K. K AMIJO et al.: Developmental History of Liquid Oxygen Turbopump

Fig. 6.

Suction performance of LE-7 main pump inducer.

Fig. 9.
Fig. 7.

Fig. 8.

Overall performance of turbine.

Overall performance of main pump.

Overall performance of preburner pump.

Fig. 10.

Balance piston details.

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Trans. Japan Soc. Aero. Space Sci.

Fig. 14.

Fig. 11.

Inlet-orifice axial clearance.

Fig. 12.

Fig. 13.

Groove geometry.

Effect of grooves on balance piston characteristics.

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Displacement measurement probe.

higher pressure in the balance piston cavity than expected. It


was concluded that the disagreement between the measured
and predicted pressure was due to the annular grooves with a
row of fastening bolts that were set on the wall of the casing,
as shown in Fig. 10. The grooves suppressed the rotating velocity of the fluid and made the pressure higher than without
grooves. The grooves functioned the same as a swirl breaker.
However, it was also confirmed that the balance holes had
another function to relieve the balance piston cavity pressure
during a stop of the turbopump, which was performed in a
short time and produced excessive pressure in the balance
piston cavity because of the evaporation of liquid oxygen.
Furthermore, the axial clearance of the inlet orifice at the
design rotational speed was increased by the use of a kind
of swirl breaker that consisted of many radial grooves fabricated on the casing of the front shroud (Figs. 10 and 12) by
which the pressure in the balance piston cavity greatly decreased as a result of the suppression of flow rotation. Figure 13 shows the effect of the grooves on the balance piston
characteristics. In that figure, Q 0 , q0 , r2 , Tp , u 2 , and are
the main pump flow rate, balance piston leakage, radius of
main pump impeller, pump axial thrust, tip velocity of main
pump impeller, and density of pump fluid, respectively. The
grooves were very effective in increasing the inlet orifice axial clearance.
4.2. Supression of rotating cavitation3, 7)
When the original inducer housing was used, it exhibited
the unstable head coefficient curve presented by crosses in
Fig. 6. Remarkable head degradation was present near the
cavitation number, = 0.020.04. As shown in Fig. 15,
the inducer also produced a supersynchronous shaft vibration and an amplitude jump of synchronous vibration at the
same range of cavitation numbers, which were measured by
a displacement measurement probe shown in Fig. 14. In particular, both the largest head degradation and the amplitude
jump of synchronous vibration in Fig. 15 occurred simultaneously, that is, at the same cavitation number, = 0.027.
From a comparison of the facts mentioned above, a former

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K. K AMIJO et al.: Developmental History of Liquid Oxygen Turbopump

Fig. 15.

Fig. 16.

161

Spectrum analysis of main pump impeller displacements (inducer housing A).

Details of inducer housing.


Fig. 17. Main pump impeller displacement in LE-7 engine test.
a) original inducer housing, b) modified inducer housing.

report of rotating cavitation, and the experimental investigation of hydrodynamically induced shaft forces with an inducer, it was concluded that the shaft vibration was caused
by the rotating cavitation that occurred in the inducer of the
main pump.
It was conjectured that rotating cavitation might be closely
related to the tip leakage flow cavitation of an inducer from
the visual observations. Some efforts were made to influence

the tip leakage flow cavitation of the inducer. Although increasing the tip clearance was fairly effective in decreasing
the amplitude of the supersynchronous vibration, it could
not completely distinguish the vibration. A suction ring,
which is usually used to regulate the back flow at the inducer
inlet, was also very effective in suppressing the supersynchronous shaft vibration. Sometimes the vibration was com-

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Trans. Japan Soc. Aero. Space Sci.

Vol. 44, No. 145

inducer upstream housing, did not exhibit the dented part


caused by the rotating cavitation. It was also comfirmed that
the modified inducer upstream housing was very effective
in suppressing the supersynchronous shaft vibration in the
LE-7 engine test, as shown in Fig. 17. This device (inducer
housing C) was applied to the flight model turbopump, since
it had no durability problems.
5. Other Problems

Fig. 18.

Fourier analysis of LE-7 LOX turbopump shaft vibrations.

pletely eliminated, but the ring was not applied to the flight
model turbopump because it required many tests to confirm
its durability.
The influence of the inducer upstream housing diameter
on the supersynchronous shaft vibration was investigated.
Some relationship was found between the inducer upstream
housing diameter and the amplitude of the supersynchronous
shaft vibration. We obtained a very interesting relation of
the inducer housing dimensions represented by the following equation, which almost completely extinguished the supersynchronous vibration, that is, the rotating cavitation.
D1 D2 + 2C 2 = D2 + (D2 Dt )

(1)

where C 2 is the tip clearance and D1 , D2 , and Dt are denoted in Fig. 16. The head coefficient curve presented by
circles in Fig. 10, which was obtained by using the modified

We experienced a very curious phenomenon in the initial phase of the development of the LE-7 LOX turbopump.
Three types of shaft vibrations appeared in the tests of the
turbopump alone in almost the same operating conditions.8)
One was a supersynchronous shaft vibration resulting from a
rotating cavitation that was already described in the previous
section. Figure 18 shows that only a supersynchronous shaft
vibration occurred and only a subsynchronous shaft vibration occurred in the almost the same operating conditions.
Furthermore, the supersynchronous shaft vibration appeared
just after the subsynchronous shaft vibration had almost disappeared concomitant with the decrease of the inducer inlet
pressure.
The subsynchronous shaft vibration had not appeared
when the modified inducer upstream housing was employed.
Later, an analysis was performed to clarify the causes of
the subsynchronous shaft vibration. It was concluded that
it was caused by cavitation surge.8) Furthermore, an analytical study of the flow instabilities of turbomachines indicated
that the rotating cavitation and the cavitation surge occur in
almost the same operating condition.9)
In the initial phase of development, the vanes of a turbine
nozzle that were attached to a turbine manifold casing with
welding were separated from the casing, and a large amount
of leakage of turbine working fluid from the inlet to the outlet
of the nozzle occurred, which resulted in the large decrease
of turbine output. This defect was improved by an increase
of the welding area between the tips of the vanes of the turbine nozzle and the manifold casing.
Many other minute improvements were performed to increase the reliability and durability of the LE-7 liquid oxygen
turbopump, such as adding a bypass conduit to increase the
coolant for the turbine-side self-lubricated ball bearings.
6. Concluding Remarks
The liquid oxygen turbopump of the research, prototype,
and flight models for the LE-7 engine had been fabricated,
tested, and modified from 1986 to 1993. Although the turbopumps attained almost the hydraulic performance they
were expected to, regarding mechnical performance some
efforts should be made for the flight type turbopump with
enough reliability and durability. Some modifications were
required to achieve the axial thrust balance of the rotor assembly. The turbine blades had to be changed from integrally machined blades with a disk to a fire-tree blade at-

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K. K AMIJO et al.: Developmental History of Liquid Oxygen Turbopump

tachment to reduce the thermal stress at the blade roots during engine cutoff. With regard to the supersynchronous shaft
vibrations, we had to start by clarifying their cause, which
was found to be a rotating cavitation that occurred in the inducer of the main pump. The vibrations were suppressed by
a simple modification of the inducer upstream housing.
References
1) Kamijo, K., Hashimoto, R., Shimura, T., Yoshida, M., Okayasu, A.
and Warashina, S.: Design of LE-7 LOX Turbopump, Proceedings of
the 15th International Symposium on Space Technology and Science,
1986, pp. 347355.
2) Kamijo, K., Yoshida, M., Watanabe, R., Hashimoto, Ohta, T. and
Warashina, S.: Development Status of LE-7 LOX Turbopump, Proceedings of the 16th International Symposium on Space Technology
and Science, Sapporo, 1988, pp. 281288.
3) Kamijo, K., Yoshida, M. and Tsujimoto, Y.: Hydraulic and Mechanical Performance of LE-7 LOX Pump Inducer, J. Propul. Power, 9
(1993), pp. 819826.

163

4) Kamijo, K., Yoshida, M. and Nagao, T.: Performance Evaluation of


LE-7 High-Pressure Pumps, J. Propul. Power, 10 (1994), pp. 819
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5) Kurokawa, J., Kamijo, K. and Shimura, T.: Axial Thrust Behavior in
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Trust Balancing of the LE-7 LOX Turbopump, Trans. Japan Soc. Aero.
Space Sci., 38 (1995), pp. 6676.
7) Tsujimoto, Y., Kamijo, K. and Yoshida, Y.: A Theoretical Analysis
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8) Watanabe, M., Yamada, H., Yoshida, M., Komatsu, T. and Kamijo,
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