Rolls-Royce opens world’s largest and smartest aerospace testbed

Rolls-Royce has officially opened the world’s largest and smartest indoor aerospace testbed in Derby.

Testbed 80, created at the engineering giant’s civil aerospace division, at Sinfin, will be used to test the most efficient aero engines of today – and the even more sustainable propulsion systems of the future.

Recently, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng visited the site to officially open the testbed, which represents an investment of £90 million by Rolls-Royce. He said: “This testbed here in Derby shows that the UK remains a global leader in aero engine technology.

“I’m proud that we’re supporting Rolls-Royce’s development of the highly-efficient UltraFan engine, as well as investment in green and cutting-edge aerospace technology here in the UK that will create high-skilled, well-paid jobs for decades to come.”

Warren East, chief executive at Rolls-Royce, said: “This incredible piece of infrastructure is a very visible sign of our commitment to this site and secures the future of Derby as the home of large engine development, continuing a history that began in the late 1960s with the RB211.”

The completion of Testbed 80 is a major milestone for Rolls-Royce after almost three years of construction.

With an internal area of 7,500 square metres, making it larger than a Premiership football pitch, the testbed was designed with distinctive technologies and systems, which are more capable and complex than any of Rolls-Royce’s other testbeds.

Mr East said: “Testbed 80 is the largest facility of its type in the world.

“However, it is not only big, it is also smart and features the most advanced testing technology we have ever used.

“As the new global hub of our testing capability, it will support the next stage of our UltraFan programme as we begin ground testing the first demonstrator in 2022.”

The testbed conducted its first run on a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine earlier this year.

Going forward, Testbed 800 will support the three pillars of Rolls-Royce’s sustainability strategy.

Firstly, it will help continue to improve the efficiency of the gas turbine engine.

The facility has been designed to test a range of today’s engines, including the Trent XWB and the Trent 1000.

But it will also have the capability to test the UltraFan demonstrator, the blueprint for Rolls-Royce’s next generation of engines.

According to the firm, UltraFan will be 25% more efficient than the first Trent engine. Ground testing of the demonstrator will begin at the testbed in 2022.

Secondly, Testbed 80 will be used to test Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs).

These can already be used as “drop-in” fuels in Rolls-Royce’s existing engines.

Testbed 80 has been designed to support this commitment – it is equipped with a 140,000-litre fuel tank for different fuel types, including SAFs.

Next year, Rolls-Royce plans to run its first UltraFan demonstrator test using 100% SAF.

Finally, in line with the firm’s ambition to pioneer novel, more sustainable technologies, the testbed is designed to have the capability to test the hybrid or all-electric flight systems of the future.