Digitization, Electrification and Additive Manufacturing to Revolutionize Propulsion and Energy Written 28 July 2015

Panelists: Moderator Graham Warwick, Aviation Week & Space Technology; Jean Boti, Airbus Group; Douglas Juul, Lockheed Martin Corp.; Mary Beth Koelbl, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center; Neil R. Garrigan, GE Aviation

by Lawrence Garrett, AIAA Web Editor

Panelists discuss "Technology Development and Trends in Propulsion and Energy," July 28, at the 2015 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum in Orlando, Florida.

Whether with aircraft, space launch vehicles or missile systems platforms, the aerospace propulsion and energy sector is undergoing dramatic changes sure to revolutionize the industry.

From advancements in additive manufacturing to rapidly advancing digitization and bandwidth, connectivity and cybersecurity, the propulsion and energy sector is working hard to keep pace. That was the main theme during “Technology Development and Trends in Propulsion and Energy,” a panel at the 2015 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum.

“Additive really is revolutionizing the way we design hardware,” said Mary Beth Koelbl, deputy director of the Propulsion Systems Department with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. “It’s enabling you to design hardware with geometries and shapes and features that you’ve never really been able to do before.”

NASA is being asked to certify additive manufacturing in many areas, Koelbl said, such as for its Space Launch System. She added that NASA has designed everything it could with additive manufacturing and, as a result, there has been “a dramatic reduction in part count and equally dramatic reductions in cost and schedule.”

Koelbl believes additive manufacturing has the “ability to be a very disruptive technology way beyond NASA” and said it’s important that the industry work together to determine how to certify additive manufacturing for flight applications and how to make it more integral in design.

Douglas Juul, manager of systems technology with Missiles and Fire Control at Lockheed Martin Corp., highlighted some of his company’s missile production programs, which rely on the same types of propulsion systems. He said that although his organization is not a propulsion provider, they incorporate propulsion solutions as part of their products.

“Risk and value are some of the major issues that we struggle with, because ... the propulsion systems are a major part of the structure in our weapons” Juul said. “They integrate and get involved into every aspect of all of our systems, whether it’s electrical, mechanical, aerodynamic.”

Jean Boti, executive vice president of research and technology with Airbus Group, cited “Flightpath 2050,” Europe’s vision for aviation plan, and said that Airbus has been aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 75 percent and noise by 65 percent by 2050.

Boti called the task huge and said that Airbus decided to take it on with disruptive technologies. He said their idea is “to have this electric propulsion that is assisted by thermal.”

Neil R. Garrigan, executive manager of aviation advanced technology with GE Aviation, said that with the growth of electrification and digitization — in which more bandwidth will be needed — as well as more autonomous systems and sensors and the proliferation of unmanned vehicles, a key question is: “What might that world look like, and how will it impact propulsion and energy systems as we know them today?”

Garrigan said alternative and renewable energies and energy storage, whether electrical or thermal, will “be a big enabler and potentially a disrupter.”

“We should all be preparing to shape the future of flight,” Garrigan said. “It’s an exciting time. We’re passionate for it, and we like to share the passion that everyone else has as well.”


All 2015 AIAA Propulsion and Energy Forum Videos