Given the maturity of the gas turbine engine since its invention and also considering the limited and flattened level of resources expected to be allocated for NASA aeronautics research and development, we ask the question are NASA technology investments still needed to enable future turbine engine-based propulsion systems? If so, what is NASA’s unique role to justify NASA’s investment? To address this topic, we will first review the accomplishments and the impact that NASA Glenn Research Center has made on turbine engine technologies over the last 78 years. Specifically, this paper discusses NASA’s role and contributions to turbine engine development, specific to both 1) NASA’s role in conducting experiments to understand flow physics and provide relevant benchmark validation experiments for Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) code development, validation, and assessment; and 2) the impact of technologies resulting from NASA collaborations with industry, academia, and other government agencies. Note that the scope of the discussion is limited to the NASA technology contributions with which the author was intimately associated, and does not represent the entirety of the NASA contributions to turbine engine technology. The specific research, development, and demonstrations discussed herein were selected to both 1) provide a comprehensive review and reference list of the technology and its impact, and 2) identify NASA’s unique role and highlight how NASA’s involvement resulted in additional benefit to the gas turbine engine community.
Secondly, we will discuss current NASA collaborations that are in progress and provide a status of the results. Finally, we discuss the challenges anticipated for future turbine engine-based propulsion systems for civil aviation and identify potential opportunities for collaboration where NASA involvement would be beneficial. Ultimately, the gas turbine engine community will decide if NASA involvement is needed to contribute to the development of the design and analysis tools, databases, and technology demonstration programs to meet these challenges for future turbine engine-based propulsion systems.