Propulsion and future challenges: The users’ view
28 July 2014, 8:15 p.m. EDT
by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA web editor
Participants on ths panel discussion, “Perspectives on the Future of Propulsion & Energy – The View from Users.”
Industry experts gathered on Monday afternoon to discuss “Perspectives on the Future of Propulsion & Energy – The View from Users.” The panel, part of AIAA’s Propulsion and Energy Forum in Cleveland, was moderated by Graham Warwick, managing editor, technology, at Aviation Week. Panelists included James Petersen, vice president and senior chief engineer in Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ Propulsion Systems Division; Sebastien Remy, head of Airbus Group Innovations at Airbus; Leslie Kovacs, director of Washington operations for United Launch Alliance; and John Henderson, Lockheed Martin Fellow, Space Propulsion, at Lockheed Martin.
Warwick introduced the panelists and said they would be discussing the direction in which they’d like to push the propulsion industry, and what they would like to see in the future in this field.
As Boeing considers what next-generation propulsion systems it may develop, Petersen said, environmental concerns are very important and are affecting some of the company’s goals and challenges. He said Boeing has been working to set some clear goals ¬– one of which is to cut current carbon emissions in half by “the 2050 timeframe”.
Petersen said Boeing is very involved in working on synthetic and other alternate fuels. The industry, he said, needs a sustainable fuel supply, one that can be reproduced and will have a lower impact on the environment. A very positive development in the industry is that “fuel burn is really driving us in a good direction, from a CO2 standpoint” – a trend that is also helping the airlines, he said.
Remy discussed “electrifying the future of aviation,” saying that electric propulsion must “move up” to a higher power range to be viable in the long term. He touched on hybridization – the use of electricity to power part or all of a propulsion system. The challenge, according to Remy, is “not simply the virtue of replacing modestly efficient gas turbine[s] by a more efficient gas generator electrical thrust system; it’s also rethinking completely the borders of what is traditionally an aircraft and what is traditionally an engine.”
Kovac’s remarks focused on recent legislative efforts aimed at preventing the secretary of defense from entering into or renewing a contract with any entity that does business with Russia. This could mean, depending on timing and other factors, that “the Atlas 5 comes to an end,” said Kovac. The Atlas 5 currently launches the majority of U.S. national security missions, he said, and “there’s not enough activity in the civil or commercial sectors to sustain the vehicle.” One major concern, he said, is that completing a new product would take longer than the two-year budget cycle, and congressional urgency does not guarantee sustained funding. He added, “It is the right thing for the U.S. to develop an LO2/hydrocarbon engine in the 500,000–1,000,000-pound thrust class. He said it would be “good for the U.S. industrial base, and the U.S. should probably have built it 5-10 year ago.”
Henderson also presented a user’s perspective on the technology employed for satellite propulsion. He noted that much of the technology that was present on the Apollo spacecraft is still being used, and that there has not been much technology insertion into the spacecraft that are currently flying. An exception involves augmenting the efficiency of chemical thrusters.
It is in electric propulsion that “large amounts of development” will take place in the near term, said Henderson. Going to Mars will lay the foundation for what technology will evolve, he said, adding that “many of the people in this room will be responsible for guiding which technologies we build.”
To view the entire session, visit AIAA's livestream channel.