Rolls-Royce has officially opened Testbed 80, the world’s largest and smartest indoor aerospace testbed.

The opening took place at an official ceremony attended by the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy, in Derby, UK.

The completion of the project, which will test aeroengines of today and the sustainable propulsion systems of the future, is a major milestone and follows a £90m investment and almost three years of construction. Testbed 80 has an internal area of 7,500 sq m, making it larger than a Premiership football pitch. It was designed with technologies and systems which are more capable and complex than the company’s other testbeds. The testbed conducted its first run on a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine at the test facility in Derby, UK earlier this year.

“Largest and smartest” facility of its type

Warren East, Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce, 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. 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 historythat began in the late 1960s with the RB211.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “This testbed here in Derby shows that the UK remains a global leader in aeroengine 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. As the civil aviation market recovers, the innovation of great British companies such as Rolls-Royce and the entire aerospace sector are central to our plans to build back better from the pandemic and end our contribution to climate change by 2050.”

Testbed 80 will support all three pillars of Rolls-Royce’s sustainability strategy. The first is the continual improvement in the efficiency of the gas turbine. The facility has been designed to test a range of engines, including the Trent XWB and the Trent 1000, but will also have the capability to test the UltraFan demonstrator, the blueprint for the manufacturer’s next generation of engines. UltraFan is set to be 25 per cent more efficient than the first Trent engine, and the demonstrator will its ground testing at the testbed in 2022.

Facility can support SAFs and electric engines

Rolls-Royce has also committed to promoting the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAFs), which can already be used as “drop-in” fuels into existing engines. Testbed 80 has been designed to support this commitment – it is equipped with a 140,000-litre fuel tank (which could fill up a car almost 3,000 times) for different fuel types, including SAFs. In 2022, the company plans to run its first UltraFan demonstrator test using 100 per cent SAF.

The testbed has also been designed to test the hybrid or all-electric flight systems of the future. Part of the new technology development for Testbed 80 has been supported by the ATI’s PACE project, specifically for the UltraFan. Rolls-Royce has partnered with MDS Aero Test Corporation of Ottawa, Canada for the design and construction of Testbed 80.

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