Wow: Rolls-Royce Opens World’s Largest Indoor Engine Testbed

UK-based aerospace and defence giant Rolls-Royce has officially opened its new ‘Testbed 80’ facility. This structure makes up the “world’s largest and smartest indoor aerospace testbed,” and is situated in Derby. British politician Kwasi Kwarteng was among those present at the opening of the testbed, which carried out its first run on an engine earlier this year.

Rolls-Royce Testbed 80
The enormous facility dwarfs even Rolls-Royce’s largest engines. Photo: Rolls-Royce

The official opening

Rolls-Royce announced on May 27th that it had officially opened its £90 million ($128 million) Testbed 80 facility. The enormous structure’s internal area alone covers a greater surface area than a football pitch, measuring more than 7,500 square meters. Rolls-Royce designed and constructed the facility in partnership with MDS Aero Support Corporation.

Derby is a significant location for Rolls-Royce, with engine testing there dating back as far as the 1960s. The latter part of this particular decade saw the company test its RB211 in the city in the East Midlands. This powerplant later saw use on airliners from Boeing (747, 757, 767), Lockheed (L-1011 ‘TriStar’), and Tupolev (Tu-204). Rolls-Royce’s CEO, Warren 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.”

Rolls-Royce Testbed 80 Opening
Kwasi Kwarteng MP speaking at Testbed 80’s opening ceremony earlier this week. Photo: Rolls-Royce

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The UK government had representation at the ceremony in the form of Kwasi Kwarteng MP. Mr Kwarteng also serves as the Secretary of State for the Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy. He added that:

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.”

First run earlier this year

Although this week saw the official opening of the Testbed 80 facility, it has already been in use for several months. Indeed, Rolls-Royce completed its first engine run on the new testbed in January 2021, following nearly three years of construction work on the project.

This first test run involved a Trent XWB-97, as found on the Airbus A350. What particularly makes this facility stand out, apart from its size, is its data collection abilities. Indeed, the testbed can collect as many as 1.3 billion pieces of data a minute, from more than 100,000 parameters. The facility can even run on sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs).

Wow: Rolls-Royce Opens World’s Largest Indoor Engine Testbed
The facility will be key to the development of Rolls-Royce’s UltraFan engine. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Also building the world’s largest engine

Testbed 80 is not the only current Rolls-Royce project to have an emphasis on scale. Indeed, the company is also looking to develop the world’s largest aircraft engine. It began constructing this sizeable component, known as the UltraFan, around two months ago. Its considerable fan will have a diameter of an impressive 140 inches, or 3.5 meters, wide.

This figure is impressive in itself, but there is a particular statistic that really underlines its sheer width. Specifically, the engine alone is as wide as the entire fuselage on the Airbus A220! Rolls-Royce is aiming to complete the first UltraFan engine by the end of the year. After this, it will undergo data-driven testing on the now officially-opened Testbed 80 facility.