Journal Article

Coupled Aeropropulsive Design Optimization of a Boundary-Layer Ingestion Propulsor


J. S. Gray, and J. R. R. A. Martins


The Aeronautical Journal, 123(1259):121–137, 2019



Airframe–propulsion integration concepts that use boundary-layer ingestion (BLI) have the potential to reduce aircraft fuel burn. One concept that has been recently explored is NASA’s STARC-ABL aircraft configuration, which offers the potential for fuel burn reduction by using a turboelectric propulsion system with an aft-mounted electrically driven BLI propulsor. So far, attempts to quantify this potential fuel burn reduction have not considered the full coupling between the aerodynamic and propulsive performance. To address the need for a more careful quantification of the aeropropulsive benefit of the STARC-ABL concept, we run a series of design optimisations based on a fully coupled aeropropulsive model. A 1D thermodynamic cycle analysis is coupled to a Reynolds-averaged Navier–Stokes simulation to model the aft propulsor at a cruise condition and the effects variation in propulsor design on overall performance. A series of design optimisation studies are performed to minimise the required cruise power, assuming different relative sizes of the BLI propulsor. The design variables consist of the fan pressure ratio, static pressure at the fan face, and 311 variables that control the shape of both the nacelle and the fuselage. The power required by the BLI propulsor is compared with a podded configuration. The results show that the BLI configuration offers 6–9% reduction in required power at cruise, depending on assumptions made about the efficiency of power transmission system between the under-wing engines and the aft propulsor. Additionally, the results indicate that the power transmission efficiency directly affects the relative size of the under-wing engines and the aft propulsor. This design optimisation, based on computational fluid dynamics, is shown to be essential to evaluate current BLI concepts and provides a powerful tool for the design of future concepts.