The Space Shuttle Main Engine High-Pressure Fuel Turbopump Rotordynamic Instability Problem

[+] Author and Article Information
D. W. Childs

Speed Scientific School, The University of Louisville, Louisville, Ky.

J. Eng. Power 100(1), 48-57 (Jan 01, 1978) (10 pages) doi:10.1115/1.3446326 History: Received December 17, 1976; Online July 14, 2010


The SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) HPFTP (High-Pressure Fuel Turbopump) has been subject to a rotordynamic instability problem, characterized by large and damaging subsynchronous whirling motion. The original design of the HPFTP (from a rotordynamic viewpoint) and the evolution of the HPFTP subsynchronous whirl problem are reviewed. The models and analysis which have been developed and utilized to explain the HPFTP instability and improve its stability performance are also reviewed. Elements of the rotordynamic model which are discussed in detail include the following: (a) hydrodynamic forces due to seals, (b) internal rotor damping, (c) bearing and casing support stiffness asymmetry, and (d) casing dynamics. The stability and synchronous response characteristics of the following two design alternatives are compared: (a) a “stiff” symmetric bearing support design and (b) a damped asymmetric stiffness design. With appropriate interstage seal designs, both designs are shown, in theory to provide substantially improved stability and synchronous response characteristics in comparison to the original design. The asymmetric design is shown to have better stability and synchronous response characteristics than the stiffly supported design.

Copyright © 1978 by ASME
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