The Criticality of Thrust Measurement Testing in Aerospace

Interface is a force measurement solutions provider for many of the largest and most innovative aerospace and space systems organizations. Our measurement devices are utilized to test various aircraft and space vehicle components, including thrust testing for jet engines, gas turbines, and propulsion systems.

Thrust measurement is critical when designing and developing aircraft and spacecraft. These critical measurements are used to build and test rocket engines for launch vehicles and missiles. Thrust testing is also vital for maintenance and quality inspections of vehicle engines and systems. By measuring thrust over time, engineers can identify any potential engine problems and take corrective action before they cause a failure.

Thrust measurements ensure rocket and airplane engines produce enough thrust to safely launch, fly, and land. If an engine is not producing enough thrust, it could lead to a catastrophic failure. Trust testing also helps to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions.

The force emitted by a thrust engine dictates the size and speed at which a payload can be lifted off the ground. Enormous amounts of thrust are needed to get a spaceship out of the Earth’s atmosphere or propel a jet engine to move faster than the speed of sound. Thrust must be measured precisely because applying too much thrust to an aircraft may damage it, or using too much thrust at a rocket’s liftoff can use too much fuel.

Interface force sensors provide extremely accurate data to assess the amount of force, helping engineers tune thrusters to provide the right amount of force for the size and speed needed to launch or lift their vehicle.

Thrust is measured by placing the thrust engine on a test stand. Then, as the rocket engine burns fuel and creates thrust, the force of the thrust creates compression force on the load cell sensor. As this happens, a mechanical signal is converted to a digital signal, and this data is sent back to the engineer through a data acquisition device, who can then assess, monitor, and record that data.

A load cell used to measure thrust force must be rated for extreme heat. A typical load cell could not provide an accurate measurement when placed in a temperature environment that the sensor’s materials could not handle. Interface offers a wide range of load cells rated explicitly for this type of testing.

To give you a sense of the power and environment of thrust testing, you can see the thrust test of a jet engine in action posted on the U.S. Defense News YouTube channel.

Jet Engine Thrust Testing Application

A customer wanted to conduct a static jet engine thrust test that could accurately determine the engine’s thrust, burn time, chamber pressure, and other parameters, providing invaluable data to propellant chemists and engineers. They needed a high-accuracy load cell with excellent repeatability to withstand thrust forces in very harsh environments. From ignition to burn-out, Interface’s 1000 High Capacity Fatigue-Rated LowProfile™ Load Cell was ideally suited based on their performance for this application.

The load cell reacted to the thrust forces produced by the jet engine, and the signals were collected and recorded to create a “thrust curve” of the engine. The performance of an Interface LowProfile™ Load Cell allowed engineers to be confident in the data acquired from the static testing. Additionally, the repeatability of the load cell resulted in reduced time between tests, making static jet engine thrust testing more efficient. The 9330 battery-powered high-speed data logging indicator captured the data for analysis.

Thrust measurement ensures safety, reliability, and performance.

Interface is a long-time provider of  Aerospace and Defense Industry Solutions.  Here is another video to watch to learn more about Interface’s role in aerospace innovation.

Go here to learn more about thrust and other force test examples in the aerospace industry.


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