Airbus tests hydrogen propulsion on its A380 prototype

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Airbus and CFM International have agreed to jointly produce a hydrogen propulsion technology demonstrator for testing the very first A380, production serial MSN001.

The aim of the project is to test the technology for ZeroE aircraft, initially on the ground and then in flight. The first ZeroE aircraft are scheduled to enter service by 2035. Ground tests of the technology demonstrator could start this year, with the first take-off expected in 2026.

According to the published visual plans, the A380 will have four fuel tanks for storing liquid hydrogen at the rear of the fuselage and a fifth jet engine for hydrogen at the top of the section on the left. Its emissions and the composition of the contrail behind it will be investigated. The prototype A380 is being used for the project because of its size, which allows the hydrogen tanks to be easily installed, the fifth engine to be securely mounted on the fuselage and the existing four conventional engines to safely perform test flights.

The hydrogen is burned directly in an engine similar to that used in jet aircraft, and the new power source, based on GE’s Passport engine, is made in the United States. The liquid hydrogen from cryogenic tanks, cooled to below -250 degrees Celsius, is fed into the engines in gaseous form via a special fuel supply system.

The engine and the engine control and fuel supply system are being developed by CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran. The hydrogen is burned directly in an engine similar to that used in jet aircraft, and the new power source, based on GE’s Passport engine, is made in the United States. The liquid hydrogen from cryogenic tanks, cooled to below -250 degrees Celsius, is fed into the engines in gaseous form via a special fuel supply system.

The engine and the engine control and fuel supply system are being developed by CFM International, a joint venture between GE and Safran. The hydrogen fuel tanks are made at the European aerospace manufacturer’s Zero-Emission Development Centre (ZEDC), established last year in Bremen, Germany, and Nantes, France.

In order to decarbonise aviation, not only aircraft manufacturers but also industry and governments need to take action: building the capacity to produce environmentally friendly hydrogen and the infrastructure to bring the new fuel to the aircraft.

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