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01-12-2020 | Review | Issue 1/2020 Open Access

Chinese Journal of Mechanical Engineering 1/2020

An Overview of Bearing Candidates for the Next Generation of Reusable Liquid Rocket Turbopumps

Chinese Journal of Mechanical Engineering > Issue 1/2020
Jimin Xu, Changhuan Li, Xusheng Miao, Cuiping Zhang, Xiaoyang Yuan


There is a consensus in the aerospace field that the development of reusable liquid rockets can effectively reduce the launch expense. The pursuit of a long service life and reutilization highly depends on the bearing components. However, the rolling element bearings (REBs) used in the existing rocket turbopumps present obvious and increasing limitations due to their mechanical contacting mode. For REBs, high rotational speed and long service life are two performance indexes that mutually restrict each other. To go beyond the DN value (the product of the bearing bore and rotational speed) limit of REBs, the major space powers have conducted substantial explorations on the use of new types of bearings to replace the REB. This review discusses, first, the crucial role of bearings in rocket turbopumps and the related structural improvements of REBs. Then, with the prospect of application to the next generation of reusable liquid rocket turbopumps, the bearing candidates investigated by major space powers are summarized comprehensively. These promising alternatives to REBs include fluid-film, foil, and magnetic bearings, together with the novel superconducting compound bearings recently proposed by our team. Our more than ten years of relevant research on fluid-film and magnetic bearings are also introduced. This review is meaningful for the development of long-life and highly reliable bearings to be used in future reusable rocket turbopumps.
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