Part II : 1950-1957

8. Suntan



The Model 304 Engine


[154] By mid-August 1956, Pratt & Whitney engineers had designed the new engine to use hydrogen. It was designated the "304," taken from the division's engine order number 703040, 16 April 1956.26 It was essentially the one proposed earlier by Sens and Kuhrt and is shown schematically by figure 40. Liquid hydrogen was pumped at high pressure through a heat exchanger in the aft section of the engine. The heated hydrogen drove a multistage turbine which, through a reduction gear. powered a multistage air fan. The fan compressed incoming air, the primary working fluid of the engine. Part of the hydrogen discharged from the turbine was injected and burned in the air-stream behind the fan. The amount of hydrogen injected and burned was controlled to limit the temperature of the combustion gases which furnished the heat for the heat exchanger downstream. The remaining hydrogen was injected and burned in the after-burner section bevond the heat exchanger, and the hot gases and air expanded through the nozzle to produce propulsive thrust. The engine was similar to the Rex III but much simpler, as only one heat exchanger was used. The maximum diameter of the 304 engine was 203 centimeters, as compared to the 150 centimeters proposed by Garrett for Rex III. Nacelle length was 10.7 meters, weight 2722 kilograms, thrust at 30 500 meters altitude, 21.4 kilonewtons (4800 lb). and specific fuel consumption 0.082 kilogram/ newton hour (0.8 lb/ lb . hr). These are close to the specifications in Sens's draft of 24 February 1956.


Schematic of Pratt & Whitney's model 304 engine

[155] Fig. 40. Schematic of Pratt & Whitney's model 304 engine designed to use liquid hydrogen as fuel, 1956. (Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney.)


Pratt & Whitney engineers were well experienced in all the components of the 304 engine except the liquid-hydrogen pump and the hot-gas heat-exchanger. They purchased a liquid-hydrogen pump for study, but became dissatisfied with it and proceeded to make a better one.27 They saw two critical problems: an impeller that would handle liquid hydrogen without cavitation, and adequate sealing between the high-pressure liquid hydrogen at 20 K and the oil-lubricated bearing. Apparently they were not familiar with the work at Ohio State University on oil-free ball bearings operating in liquid hydrogen (pp. 25-26). They designed a two-stage centrifugal pump with a seal protecting conventional bearing lubrication. Figure 41 is a photograph of the pump rotor. The pump worked well and a total of 25 hours test time was accumulated in 75 tests over two years.*


The hot-gas-to-hydrogen heat exchanger (fig. 42) was the most unusual and interesting component of the 304 engine. With an outside diameter of 182 centimeters, the unit consisted of banks of 48-millimeter stainless steel tubing in an involute pattern to ensure uniform air flow. An enormous amount of tubing was used-enough to stretch over 8 kilometers; 2240 tube joints were furnace-brazed. The hydrogen passing through the heat exchanger was heated from 20 K to 1000 K, and the entering combustion gas temperature was 1500 K. The rate of heat transfer was 21 000 kilowatts (72 million Btu/hr), enough to heat 700 six-room houses.28


Pratt & Whitney engineers, experts in designing gas turbines, built the 304 hydrogen turbine with 18 stages, the largest of which was 45 centimeters in diameter. Operating temperature was 1000 K and power output was 8950 kilowatts (12 000 hp). The turbines were tested for a total of 64 hours over a two year period. The 12-stage highpressure group is shown by figure 43.


The first model 304 engine was assembled in East Hartford, Connecticut, by 18 August 1957-sixteen months after go-ahead (fig. 44.).


lquid hydrogen pump components

[156] Fig. 41. Pratt & Whitney's liquid-hydrogen pump for the model 304 jet engine. The seal between the rotor and bearings operated dry; the bearing lubrication was conventional. (Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney.)


photo of hydrogen heat exchanger

Fig. 42. hydrogen heat exchanger in Pratt & Whitney's model 304 jet engine using liquid hydrogen as fuel. (Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney.)


photo of turbine high-pressure group component

[157] Fig. 43. High-pressure group of the 12 stages of hydrogen turbine expansion used by Pratt & Whitney's model 304 engine. The early stages operated near 1000 K. (Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney.)


technician inspecting exposed side of model 304 jet engine

Fig. 44. Pratt & Whitney's model 304 engine using liquid hydrogen as fuel. Visible inside the nozzle is the afterburner fuel injector. The engine was first tested in September 1957. The numerous wires on the engine led to sensors measuring performance. (Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney.)

* One pump accumulated 4 1/2 hours of test time with speeds as high as 25 300 rpm, pressures of 75 atm, and a flow of 1.9 kg/s.