National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Propulsion

  • Provides the expertise needed for research, conceptual design, analysis, technology development, and flight system development for aeropropulsion and space propulsion applications.
    • This includes engineering support for requirements development, preliminary design, detailed design, development, test, verification, mission sustainment and disposal.
  • Activities span a broad range of areas, including airbreathing propulsion, combined cycle propulsion, chemical rocket components and engines, electric and plasma-based propulsion systems, and advanced propulsion technologies.
  • Provides all research, discipline engineering and system analysis capabilities needed for propulsion systems and critical subsystems technologies, and develops innovative design and analysis tools, techniques, and capabilities to maintain and enhance Glenn Research Center’s leadership in propulsion technology.
  • Provides cross-cutting engineering support through teams or individuals for thermal, fluid and propulsion-related systems to projects and other directorates at Glenn Research Center.

Chief: Dr. George R. Schmidt
Deputy Chief: Dr. Dhanireddy R. Reddy

Technical Focus Areas

Acoustics

  • Conducts research directed at aircraft engine noise reduction.
  • Experimental and analytical research focuses on noise reduction technologies for turbofan engines while maintaining acceptable aerodynamic performance.
  • Emphasis is given to fan and jet noise reduction for both subsonic and supersonic applications including propulsion/airframe integration effects on noise for future advanced propulsion/airframe architectures.
  • Fan/nacelle models are tested in wind tunnels and free-jets to determine the aerodynamic performance and acoustic characteristics of engine components such as inlets, fans, nacelles, nozzles, and portions of the core turbomachinery, as well as interaction effects from propulsion/airframe integration.
  • Detailed diagnostic measurements are obtained to understand fundamental flow physics.
  • Computer codes are developed and validated that model the unsteady aerodynamics and aeroacoustics of engine components.
  • Advanced computational algorithms for Computational AeroAcoustics (CAA) are developed that directly compute noise generation and propagation.
  • System level experiments are conducted to ensure that mature technologies are ready for flight tests.

Chemical and Thermal Propulsion Systems

  • Conducts research, technology development, design, test and evaluation of chemical propulsion components and subsystems.
  • Performs research and development of high-performance thermal-based systems, such as nuclear thermal rockets.
  • Performs propellant development by characterizing existing propellants and developing new non-toxic “green” propellants.
  • Conducts in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) research and development primarily for ISRU resource acquisition and propellant production.
  • Develops innovative design and manufacturing techniques to lower the cost of rocket components.
  • Provides the discipline engineering required to develop and fly chemical and thermal propulsion components and subsystems onboard NASA human and robotic spacecraft, including requirements development, component and system analysis, specification development, test and verification and flight operations support.
  • Executes propulsion subsystem manager engineering functions.
  • Develops innovative design and analysis tools, techniques, and research facilities to maintain and enhance Glenn Research Center’s leadership in chemical and thermal propulsion technology.

Combustion Physics and Reacting Processes

  • Conducts research aimed at developing technologies and the knowledge-base necessary to ensure fire safety in all mission phases, and to improve and control a myriad of combustion processes on Earth.
  • Develops flight hardware for the International Space Station (ISS) and other space platforms to conduct carefully designed experiments that elucidate the effects of low gravity on combustion and reacting systems.
  • During the course of flight experiments, serve as Project Scientists and work closely with Principal Investigators providing in-house technical expertise regarding the scientific content of the experiment, conducting ground-based precursor testing, and assisting in the development of required experiment technologies and diagnostic techniques.
  • Technologies developed for detection of soot and aerosols are leveraged to develop sensors for monitoring of the habitable environment.
  • Reacting systems knowledge-base is used to develop technologies to support In Situ Resource Utilization on the Moon and Mars.

Electric Propulsion Systems

  • Conducts research, technology development, design, development, test and evaluation of electric propulsion components and subsystems.
  • Performs research and technology development of advanced plasma-based propulsion technologies.
  • Provides the discipline engineering required to develop and fly electric propulsion components and subsystems onboard NASA human and robotic spacecraft, including requirements development, component and system analysis, specification development, test and verification and flight operations support.
  • Executes propulsion subsystem manager engineering functions.
  • Develops innovative design and analysis tools, techniques, and research facilities to maintain and enhance Glenn Research Center’s leadership in electric propulsion technology.

Engine Combustion

  • Conducts fundamental and applied research to advance the technology of advanced injectors, low emissions combustion concepts and combustion processes for aeronautical gas turbine engines and rocket engines.
  • Addresses various types of combustors applicable to high-speed aircraft, rotorcraft, general aviation/commuter aircraft, subsonic transports, launch vehicles, spacecraft and cruise missiles for civil and military applications.
  • Provides improved understanding of combustion processes, with a balance of experimental and analytical effort.
  • Research includes the chemical kinetics of reacting flows, aerosol/particulate, alternative fuels, combined cycle propulsion, advanced laser diagnostics, heat transfer phenomena, combustion code development and verification.
  • Conducts experiments and applies advanced computational methods to assess the potential of unique concepts, thus demonstrating proof-of-concept and advancing technology readiness.

Fluid and Cryogenic Systems

  • Conducts research, advanced development, and development engineering for a wide variety of fluid and gaseous systems, including propellants, cryogenic fluids, environmental control systems, purge, hydraulic and pneumatic systems and often hazardous fluids and gases for spacecraft, vehicle subsystems, ground support equipment.
  • Provides engineering design and analysis of fluid systems for advanced technologies.
  • Involves the design and analysis of the fluid systems, development of the fluid schematic, component sizing, specification and procurement of fluids handling equipment, hazards and risk assessment, fabrication, assembly, and testing of the fluid and gaseous systems.
  • Engineering of the fluid systems is also developed against the applicable industrial and aerospace codes and standards.
  • Researchers develop component and system technologies for long duration storage and low-gravity management of cryogenic propellants.

Fluid Physics and Transport Processes

  • Performs research on fluid mechanics and heat and mass transport with a special emphasis on the unique attributes of space and extraterrestrial environments.
  • Goal of this research is to develop technologies for a myriad of space and planetary surface systems, including life support, thermal control, waste disposal, and resource regeneration.
  • All of these systems require a detailed, quantitative understanding of gravity-dependent transport phenomena such as multiphase flows, granular flows, capillary flows, etc.
  • Develops carefully designed experiments that elucidate the effects of low gravity on multiphase flows and complex fluids for the International Space Station and other platforms.
  • During the course of flight experiments, serve as project scientists and work closely with principal investigators providing in-house technical expertise regarding the scientific content of the experiment, conducting ground-based precursor testing, and assisting in the development of required experiment technologies and diagnostic techniques.
  • Experiment results are aimed at developing models and technologies for advanced life support systems, propellant/fluid management, and other spacecraft technologies and systems.

Icing

  • Conducts research and development to update and advance the technology for safe and efficient aircraft operation in atmospheric icing conditions.
  • Scope includes both airframe and engine icing.
  • Develops and sponsors new approaches to ice protection in response to the constantly changing needs of all classes of modern aircraft.
  • Develops analytical methods for predicting ice growth, the aerodynamic penalties caused by ice, and ice protection system performance.
  • Performs icing research and development testing in the Icing Research Tunnel, icing research aircraft (natural icing conditions and dry-air testing), and other wind tunnels.
  • Develops new icing test techniques, upgrades and expands the capabilities of NASA’s icing test facilities.
  • Develops advanced ice protection and detection technologies to sense and measure ice growth.
  • Develops educational materials on in-flight aircraft icing for the aerospace community.

Inlets and Nozzles

  • Conducts experimental and analytical research directed at the aerodynamic design and integration of advanced inlets and nozzles for subsonic, supersonic, and hypersonic vehicles, as well as rockets for commercial and military aerospace propulsion applications.
  • Research consists of analysis and test of inlets, nozzles and other special components, and can include evaluation of full propulsion systems.
  • Analytical solutions and validation data are required to define basic flow properties, predict component performance and investigate specific phenomena including shock systems, spillage, stability, boundary layers, bleed, diffusion, separated flows, turbulence, mixing, heat transfer, flow control and acoustics.
  • Experiments are performed in small test rigs, wind tunnels, and engine and flight systems test programs to evaluate aerodynamic performance.
  • Utilizes data from experiments to calibrate and validate state-of-the-art computational fluid dynamics (CFD) codes–from Reynolds-averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) to high-order Large-Eddy Simulation (LES) to Direct Numerical Simulation (DNS)–to extend CFD capabilities for the design and analysis of future concepts.

Propulsion Systems Analysis

  • Conducts system level analyses and explores advanced concepts and technology optimization across a full spectrum of propulsion and related systems to enable informed technical, programmatic and budgetary decision making.
  • Products include portfolio assessment/gap analysis, concept creation, research strategic planning, optimization of complex systems and methods development.
  • Capabilities include conceptual design, thermodynamic cycle performance prediction, aeromechanical design/weight estimation, environmental (noise and emissions) analyses, mission analysis, and economic analyses, as well as overall system safety assessments.
  • Analyses are multidisciplinary in nature and are performed at an appropriate fidelity level consistent with customer requirements.

Thermal Systems

  • Provides and maintains Glenn Research Center’s core discipline engineering capability for applied thermal analysis.
  • Provides thermal support for requirements definition, thermal environments definition, design, development, analyses, and test support for spacecraft, active and passive thermal control systems, aerospace sub-systems and components.
  • Experienced in the test and verification methods of the thermal environments for spacecraft applications.
  • Provides the design, analysis and integration of passive and active thermal control systems for spacecraft, sub-systems and complex facility systems.
  • Provides engineering and analysis of advanced technologies; engineering analytical model assessment against experimental data, including thermal vacuum and thermal cycle testing; includes computational heat transfer and fluid dynamics analysis, thermodynamics and heat transfer mechanisms, orbital heating, aero thermal heating, plume heating, free molecular heating, one-dimensional multi-phase fluid flow analysis, and computational fluid dynamics.

Turbomachinery and Turboelectric Systems

  • Conducts fundamental and applied research aimed at advancing technologies for gas turbine engine components, including compressors, fans and turbines.
  • Develops, validates and maintains numerical modeling codes for simulating flow fields in single and multistage turbomachinery systems.
  • Flow models range from one-dimensional steady to three-dimensional unsteady simulations including heat transfer and cooling methods.
  • Experiments are conducted in cascades and rotating machinery test cells to explore the fundamental flow physics and performance assessments.
  • Loss models are developed, validated and incorporated into prediction methods.
  • Develops analysis tools and studies turboelectric and hybrid propulsion architectures utilizing alternative power sources and related integration and interaction effects on propulsor mechanisms, thus leveraging Glenn Research Center’s core competencies in energy conversion, energy storage, cryogenic fluid management, and other related areas.