2022 marks a new and exciting phase for ZEROe – Airbus’ ambition to develop the world’s first zero-emission commercial aircraft by 2035. The multi-year demonstrator programme has officially been launched with the objective to test a variety of hydrogen technologies both on the ground and in the air.
The A380 is the world’s largest and most spacious passenger jet ever built – a size that makes it ideally suited to the role of test platform.
Today, the A380 MSN1 test aircraft is earmarked for a new role: to take the lead on testing the technologies that will be vital to bringing the world’s first zero-emission aircraft to market by 2035.
“The A380 MSN1 is an excellent flight laboratory platform for new hydrogen technologies,” says Mathias Andriamisaina, Airbus ZEROe Demonstrator Leader. “It’s a safe and reliable platform that is highly versatile to test a wide range of zero-emission technologies. In addition, the platform can comfortably accommodate the large flight test instrumentation that will be needed to analyse the performance of the hydrogen in the hydrogen-propulsion system.”
A demonstrator aircraft is fundamental to developing new aviation technology. It is primarily used to test and prove the viability of designs, processes, fuels, materials and equipment, both on the ground and in the air. This information is then used to refine and certify the finished product.
Engine manufacturers have been working hand-in-hand with Airbus on demonstrator programmes for decades. And the ZEROe demonstrator will be no exception.
CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran, is set to develop the hydrogen combustion engine and prepare it for testing. Specifically, the company will modify the combustor, fuel system and control system of a GE PassportTM turbofan to run on hydrogen. The engine was selected due to its physical size, advanced turbo machinery, and fuel flow capability.
Each technology component – the hydrogen tanks, hydrogen combustion engine and liquid hydrogen distribution system – will be tested individually on the ground. Then, the complete system will be tested first on the ground and then subsequently in flight. The first flight is expected to take place in the next five years.