With the help of Barone Consulting, DARPA has awarded recently awarded contracts to Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orbital ATK for the Advanced Full Range Engine (AFRE) program.

The AFRE program aims to develop and demonstrate a new, full-scale, fully-reusable aircraft propulsion system that can operate over the full range of speeds required to enable future hypersonic aircraft platforms. (Aircraft are considered to be hypersonic when flying at speeds of Mach 5 or faster.) AFRE will explore a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) engine concept, which uses a gas turbine engine for low-speed operation, and a dual-mode ramjet (DMRJ) for high-speed operations. These two flowpaths are combined through the use of a common inlet and common nozzle.

Ramjets can operate at speeds above that of a gas turbine engine because they use the forward motion of the engine to compress the air instead of using the compressor stages of a gas turbine engine. Ramjets must slow the incoming air down to subsonic speeds before adding fuel and burning to produce thrust. A scramjet (supersonic combusting ramjet) is able to operate at speeds above that of a ramjet because the while the fuel/air mixture is decelerated, it remains at supersonic speeds while burning, allowing for the aircraft to flow at speeds faster than a ramjet would allow. A dual-mode ramjet is an engine capable of operating in a ramjet-mode at lower speeds, and in a scramjet-mode at higher speeds. However, the use of the forward motion of the engine to compress incoming air means that ram-type engines cannot operate at low speeds.

The fastest speeds at which gas turbine engines can operate is below the slowest speeds DMRJs can operate. This gap in operating regimes creates a major roadblock in the development of TBCC aircraft. Thus, the AFRE program will address key technologies needed to enable the extension of the gas turbine engine and DMRJ operating regimes, permitting transition from the low speed flowpath to the high speed flowpath. This effort will culminate in an integrated freejet test of the TBCC propulsion system over the full range of speeds required for low speed take-off to hypersonic flight. The AFRE program seeks to demonstrate the viability of a single integrated propulsion system to propel future hypersonic systems into our most challenging environments.

Dr. David Rosenberg, one Barone Consulting’s senior consultants, will continue to provide technical SETA support and subject matter expertise to DARPA as the AFRE programs enters this next phase. Dr. Rosenberg’s years of experience in combustion research, optical diagnostics, propulsion testing, and aerospace engineering have been particularly valuable to the AFRE program. Dr. Rosenberg has not only been monitoring the development of TBCC components within his fields of expertise, he has also provided valuable input into the development of new propulsion concepts. Barone Consulting looks forward to our continued involvement in DARPA’s AFRE program.

About Barone Consulting

Founded in 2009, Barone Consulting, provides technical assistance and system engineering services to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

Barone Consulting is actively recruiting and encourages strong candidates with Top Secret security clearances, systems integration, flight test, and aeronautical engineering to contact us regarding DARPA opportunities.

Information about Barone Consulting can be found at www.barone.net