Barbara L. Kakiris/Lori J. Rachul
Fredrick A. Johnson
NASA Glenn Research Center Awards $7.5 Million Contract for Pulse Detonation Engine Flight ResearchA contract for developing and building a test version of a Pulse Detonation Engine (PDE) has been awarded to the McDonnell Douglas Corporation, St. Louis, MO, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Boeing Company. The PDE flight research project will combine the efforts of McDonnell Douglas with those of NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH and NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA.
McDonnell Douglas Corporation will provide the engine to validate PDE inlet and integrated system performance. Ground tests of the integrated PDE system will be conducted at Glenn. Flight tests will be conducted at Dryden.
The performance-based contract provides for a base period of 27 months and optional tasks extending the potential full contract life to approximately 36 months. The total contract value, including optional tasks, is estimated to be $7.5 million.
NASA engineers say they want to raise the technology readiness level of this air-breathing engine concept that relies on pulses of power rather than a streaming burn of fuel. These pulses-detonations-collectively produce more thrust than a steady burn. The resulting application might be a high-Mach missile, or eventually on a larger scale, a tactical aircraft engine.
One study suggests a pulse detonation engine could yield a 30 to 50 percent improvement in fuel consumption over a conventional jet engine. Another promising aspect of PDE technology is its efficiency, which remains high above Mach 3, where conventional jet engines play out. Proponents of pulse detonation suggest it could even have higher efficiency than ramjets and scramjets. Dryden plans to mount a test PDE on a pylon beneath an F-15 to test its performance.
The PDE flight research project is funded through the Revolutionary Concepts in Aeronautics (RevCon) project of the NASA Flight Research Base Research & Technology program led by Dryden.
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