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Turbomachinery Design Quality Checks to Avoid Friction Induced Structural FailureA unique configuration of the P&W SSME Alternate Fuel Turbopump turbine disk/blade assembly, combined with a severe thermal environment, resulted in several structural anomalies that were driven by frictional contact forces. Understanding the mechanics of these problems provides new quality checks for future turbo machinery designs. During development testing in 1997 of the SSME alternate fuel turbopump at Stennis Space Center, several potentially serious problems surfaced with the turbine disk/blade assembly that had not been experienced in extensive earlier testing. Changes to the operational thermal environment were noted based on analytical prediction of modifications that affected performance and on stationary thermal measurements adjacent to the rotor assembly. A detailed structural investigation was required to reveal the mechanism of distress induced by the change. The turbine disk experienced cracking in several locations due to increased thermal gradient induced stress during start and shutdown transients. This was easily predictable using standard analysis procedures and expected once the thermal environment was characterized. What was not expected was the curling of a piston ring used for blade axial retention in the disk, indentation of the axial face of the blade attachment by a spacer separating the first and second stage blades, and most significantly, galling and cracking of the blade root attachment that could have resulted in blade release. Past experience, in gas turbine environments, set a precedent of never relying on friction for help and to evaluate it only in specific instances where it was obvious that it would degrade capability. In each of the three cases above, friction proved to be a determining factor that pushed the components into an unsatisfactory mode of operation. The higher than expected temperatures and rapid thermal transients combined with friction to move beyond past experience. The turbine disk/blade assembly configuration contributed to the potential for these problems to occur by limiting the radial deflection from thermals and centrifugal loading. The cooled solid bore configuration was chosen to improve rotordynamic stability by limiting the length of rotor overhang while still protecting the roller bearing by maintaining zero slope under the inner race. During a start transient, the rim area of the disk heats rapidly and expands axially and circumferentially and requires corresponding radial and axial growth of the disk to maintain relative positioning of the disk, blades, spacers and retainer rings. The stiffness, large thermal mass, and bore cooling flow combine to severely limit the disk rim radial growth which results in the potential for relative movement between these parts. Friction then becomes a player in the determination of component stress.
Document ID
Document Type
Preprint (Draft being sent to journal)
Moore, Jerry H.
(Pratt and Whitney Aircraft West Palm Beach, FL United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Subject Category
Mechanical Engineering
Meeting Information
Meeting: Propulsion
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Country: United States
Start Date: June 20, 1999
End Date: June 24, 1999
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.
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