ASTRAL Project begins manufacturing trials and tests

GE Aviation and the University of Nottingham's ASTRAL Project continues to progress as part of the Airbus Helicopters RACER program

July 17, 2018

GE Aviation, through its Hamble aerostructures business, working with the University of Nottingham and in partnership with Airbus Helicopters, continues to progress with the development of the wing for the Airbus Helicopters Rapid And Cost-Effective Rotorcraft, Codenamed RACER which was unveiled at last year's Paris Airshow. This venture is made possible through the funding and support provided by the Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking.

All key technologies have reached the pre-requisite level expected at Preliminary Design Review (PDR) and are currently being developed through manufacturing trials and tests ahead of full component manufacture, which will ultimately be flown on the RACER aircraft at the end of the programme.

The ASTRAL project involves the development of a new and innovative wing structure that will provide the Airbus Helicopters' RACER compound helicopter demonstrator with enhanced speed and range to complete advanced missions.

In April of this year the wing, being developed by the ASTRAL team based at the GE Aviation Hamble site, was reviewed by the Airbus Helicopters aircraft architects at a Wing PDR held at their Airbus Helicopters facility in Donauwörth, Germany. This was the culmination of a combined effort from the ASTRAL consortium and Airbus Helicopters working with multiple engineering partners across Europe to reach key interface agreements and enable launch of the detailed design and manufacturing phase of the project.

As part of the ASTRAL program, GE Aviation Hamble are maturing key technologies, such as Additive Manufacture, to support advanced Casting methods for structural components, Automated Fibre Placement (AFP) for sandwich structures and Single Curing of complex composite structures for control surfaces. These technologies are integral to GE's drive to reduce manufacturing costs, complement high rate enablement and improve overall aircraft performance through optimised weight solutions.

ASTRAL look to start component manufacture in Q1 of 2019 with delivery of the wing by the end of 2019. The first flight of RACER is scheduled for Q4 2020.

"The GE Aviation team is proud and committed to be working with its partners the University of Nottingham and Airbus Helicopters to develop RACER through to the completion of the flying demonstrator," said Paulo Mancilla, executive engineering leader at GE Aviation's Hamble UK facility .

"The RACER wings are a highly innovative architecture and a design which is unique in the world of aviation. We are very proud to have GE and their expertise on board of the RACER demonstrator programme to assure the design, manufacturing and delivery of the set of wings needed for the flying demonstrator," said Tomasz Krysinski, Head of Research and Innovation at Airbus Helicopters.

Speaking about the University of Nottingham's involvement, Professor Svetan Ratchev, director of IfAM and the ASTRAL programme director, said, "We are thrilled to be working in close collaboration with GE and Airbus Helicopters as part of this cutting-edge programme to deliver an advanced fast rotorcraft platform that will deliver competitive and green aviation and sustain important high value manufacturing jobs in Europe."