Jet Propulsion Test Cell


To enhance the in-class lecture of aeropropulsion theories with hands-on learning experience, a student-centered effort to build a test cell capability to run turbine engines was initiated in January 2001.  The activities involve (1) assembling the engine hardware and the test stand and (2) develop visualization front-ends for the computer simulations of actual engine runs. Thanks to the efforts of two generations of highly dedicated undergraduate student volunteers, a miniturbojet engine was successfully assembled in the summer of 2003. The newly established test cell was successfully operated by AAE466 students and passed its first major landmark in the Fall semester of 2003.  The students now have the opportunity to experience the sight, the sound, and the smell of the theories they learn in class. The miniturbojet engine is the WREN 54 that delivers about 8.5lb of thrust at 160,000 RPM.  The development of the test cell was presented at the 40th AIAA/ASME/SAE/ASEE Joint Propulsion Conference and Exhibit, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, July 11-14, 2004. AIAA paper 2004-4085 and at the 45th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, Reno, Nevada, January 8-11, 2007. AIAA paper 2007-703.


Equipment Guide  describes the equipment setup in the test cell.

Operator’s Guide describes the safety and the operating procedures for driving the MW54 turbjet.


Engine Run Demo (.wmv file)

             A two-minute highlight of the MW54 run

 with sight and SOUND.



MW54 Turbojet

Diameter :             89 mm (3.5 in)

Length :                165 mm (6.5in)

Max Static Thrust : 8.5 lbf

Primary Fuel :        Kerosene

Secondary Fuel :   Propane (startup)

Idle Shaft Speed :  45,000 RPM

Max Shaft Speed : 160,000 RPM

Fuel Flow Rate at

   Maximum RPM : 180 ml/min





As installed in the text cell, the photo above shows the propane line (green), the clear fuel (kerosene) supply line, the hall RPM sensor (data line in red), the power supply to the glow plugs (black wires), the data line for EGT (green wire), the compress air brass tubing, thrust measurement devices, and the ¼ inch metal shield for operation safety. 


       Data Acquisition Capabilities

LabView-based Control Panel



















Compressor/Turbine RPM

Compressor Pressure

Fuel Flow Rate

Exhaust Gas Temperature

Ambient Temperature

Ambient Pressure



       Engine Assembly Highlights

The following pictures were taken during the engine building process.  All of the engine components have been assembled by the Aeronautical Engineering student groups.

                      Sealing                      (Compressor/Turbine Assembly)


Mating of the compressor and combustor






            DSC00673   DSC00712  DSC00718



Test Platform


Apply high temperature sealer


Control Room




DCP_0009          DSC00730      DSC00786



Simulation Front-End























The second part of the effort involves developing a simulation front end that can be used for both engine efficiency evaluation and the computer simulations of engine runs by using the data acquired in an actual engine run.  We are using Glut in OPEN GL and the engine model has been developed using Pro/ENGINEER. The following still picture shows a cutaway cross-section of the MW54 engine that we have developed.  The rotating assembly of the compressor and the turbine can rotate according to the test run data. 



§  Diameter : 89 mm (3.5 in)

§  Length : 165 mm (17in)

§  Gas generator shaft speed

o               Min : 45,000 RPM

o               Max : 160,000 RPM

§  Max Turboprop shaft speed : 7500 RPM

§  Primary Fuel : Kerosene

§  Secondary Fuel : Propane for startup

§  Fuel flow rate at max RPM : 200 ml/min

§  Max static thrust :  30 lbf

§  Weight : 2.77 kg (6.1 lbf)


MW54 Turboprop



To further enrich students’ exposure to different types of turbine engines, a free turbine driven turboprop has been built recently in our test cell with purchased components and manufacturer-assembled sub-systems, such as the gear box.  This addition further enhances the quality of propulsion education at WMU.  The students have begun to run the new turboprop engine in Fall 2006. The data that can be acquired include thrust, fuel flow rate, prop RPM, main turbine RPM, gas temperatures at the main and the free turbine exits.


Turbine Engines in the WMU Aeropropulsion Test Cell




Future Expansion

More data acquisition capability will be developed.  A major planned activity is to build a movable test stand for the turbojet.



Student Group Leaders

Chin Hoong Leong and Jerry Jacob (Class of 2004)

Colin Mackie-Smith and Melissa Couper (Class of 2002)

Special thanks to AAE 466 Class of 2002 for helping with the initial cell setup.