National Aeronautics and Space Administration

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Ramjets and Missiles (1952 – 1957)
Full-Scale Engine Research
Engineer in front of display in PSL

The Cold War had commenced almost immediately after World War II. The Soviet Union and the United States raced to integrate German technology into their military, particularly the long-range rocket or missile. By the time PSL began operating in 1952, the Korean War was underway, adding an increased urgency to the research. Also, the need continued to test the emerging larger turbojet engines.

Documents:
     Engine Research Division Reorganization (1951) (PDF, 1.85MB)
     “Jet Engines for War” by Hugh Dryden (1951) (PDF, 1.55MB)
     Full Scale Engine Research Inspection Talks (1954) (PDF, 8.23MB)
     “Pushing Innovation and Industry Resistance,” Chapter 7 of Engines and Innovation
     PSL Operations Summary (1953-57) (PDF, 328KB)
     Propulsion Research for Hypersonic Flight (1957) (PDF, 7.57MB)

Navaho Program
Two men working on ramjet engine
Installation of 48-inch Ramjet

North American Aviation’s Navaho Missile program, started in 1946, was one of the most ambitious attempts to expand upon German rocket technology. The Navaho was a winged missile that was intended to travel up to 3000 miles carrying a nuclear warhead. It was launched using rocket booster engines that were ejected after the missile’s ramjet engines were ignited. When it came online in 1952, PSL immediately began studying the Pratt & Whitney XRJ47-W-5 ramjets that were to be used for the Navaho. The 48-inch-diameter engine was again studied in PSL during 1955 and 1956. The engine was run at Mach 2.75 and simulated altitudes between 58,000 and 73,000 feet. Lewis researchers studied engine ignition, the exterior shell of the burner, fuel flow control, different flameholder configurations, and overall engine performance.

While these studies in PSL were occurring, an early turbojet-powered version of the missile was successfully launched numerous times. The second phase of the Navaho Program, which used the ramjets, began launching in late 1956. It took twelve launch attempts get four of the missiles into the air, and those four performed marginally at best. The program was cancelled in July 1957, but its legacy lived on in other programs. Navaho propulsion technology was used on the Redstone, Thor, and Atlas rocket systems, which were used for the Project Mercury launches. Its guidance system would be used on the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus. The concept of a booster-assisted takeoff for a winged missile came to fruition with the space shuttle.

Documents:
     Investigation of Marquardt Shock-Positioning Control Unit (PDF, 1.24MB)
     Free-jet Tests of 48-inch Diameter Ramjet with Annular Can-type Flameholder (PDF, 1.63MB)
     Investigation of Engine Dynamics and Controls for 48-inch Ramjet (PDF, 13.3MB)
     Pentaborane Fuel in a 48-inch Diameter Ramjet Engine (PDF, 1.42MB)
     Experimental Investigation of Dynamic Relations in a 48-inch Ram-Jet Engine (PDF, 2.63MB)

Navaho
Navaho Footage
Navaho Missile
Navaho Missile
PSL 2 with Ramjet
PSL 2 with Ramjet
Ramjet Flameholder
Ramjet Flameholder
Bomarc Program
Inlet entering PSL chamber
Inlet Section of Chamber

Bomarc was a long-range interceptor missile for the Air Force that underwent a protracted development in the 1950s. The Boeing and University of Michigan-designed missile was launched vertically using a rocket engine, but its flight was powered by two 28-inch-diameter Marquardt ramjets. The ramjets for Bomarc were studied in PSL in 1954 and 1955. The studies covered a variety of performance issues including the systems dynamics response and the pneumatic shock-positioning control unit. The lengthy development was hampered by budget constraints and political in-fighting. In the end, only ten Bomarc sites were established when deployment was finally completed in 1962.




Documents:
     Investigation of Dynamics of a 28-inch Diameter Ramjet (PDF, 1.50MB)
     Investigation of Marquardt Shock-Positioning Control Unit (PDF, 1.24MB)
     Weapons Force Planning: Interceptor Missiles by Richard F. McMullen (PDF, 100KB)

Bomarc Setup
Bomarc Footage
Bomarc Installation
Bomarc Installation
Flameholder
Flameholder
Bomarc Hardware
Bomarc Hardware
Turbojets
Man with jet engine display
Full-Scale Engines

PSL No. 1 was originally used exclusively for turbojets. The first investigation involved a General Electric J73-GE-1A. The 12-stage J73 was a successor to the company’s successful J47. The J73s were used primarily on the Air Force’s F-86H Sabre jet fighters. During 1952 and 1953, Lewis researchers Carl Campbell, William Conrad, and Adam Sobolewski subjected the J73 to 44 runs in PSL No. 1. They created performance curves showing the optimal range for combustion and compressor efficiency. In September 1954, not long after the PSL tests, the Sabre with its J73 engine set a new world’s speed record at the National Aircraft Show in Dayton. The performance of a YJ73-GE-3 version was then studied over almost 200 runs in PSL. Problems with the aircraft design and General Electric’s production of the engine resulted in the cancellation of the Sabre program.

General Electric created the Collier Trophy-winning J79 as an advancement of the J73. Its variable stator vanes would permit fighter jets using the engines to reach twice the speed of sound. The Air Force requested that NACA Lewis improve afterburner performance on the engine. Afterburner configurations for the prototype XJ79-GE-1 were tested in PSL during 1957. Basic modifications to the flameholder and fuel system increased the combustion efficiency and reduced the pressure drop. The 17-stage compressor engine was used extensively in the Vietnam War on the F-4 Phantom, F-104 Starfighter, and B-58 Hustler.

In 1957 PSL also had a chance to test a rare Canadian jet engine, the Iroquois PS.13. The Avro Canada Company began designing its CF-105 Arrow jet fighter in the mid-1950s. Although not originally in the design, the decision was made to use two PS.13 engines developed by another branch of the company. These engines were more powerful than any contemporary U.S. jet engine, lightweight, and fuel efficient. The engines were tested in PSL during the extensive ground testing phase. The Arrow made its flight debut in March 1958, but was cancelled the following year when its perceived mission disappeared.

Documents:
     Altitude Investigation of J73-GE-1A Engine Components (PDF, 6.21MB)
     Performance of YJ73-GE-3 Turbojet Engine in Altitude Test Chamber (PDF, 2.87MB)
     Altitude Performance Characteristics of the J73-GE-1A Turbojet Engine (PDF, 1.22MB)
     Preliminary Performance Data for Variable-Ejector Assembly on XJ79-GE-1 (PDF, 3.99MB)

J73 Engine
J73 Footage
GE J79 Turbojet
GE J79 Turbojet
Iroquois Engine
Iroquois Engine
J79 Stator Blades
J79 Stator Blades