Successful Hyperion pilot project paves the way for civil aviation hydrogen propulsion
ArianeGroup has successfully tested the concept of a hydrogen conditioning system capable of supplying an aeronautical gas turbine
HyPERION is a pilot project run by Safran in partnership with Airbus and ArianeGroup, with the support of the French Government’s Investments for the Future Program (PIA), designed to evaluate hydrogen propulsion solutions for commercial aviation
This success brings to a close the HyPERION project launched in December 2020, and represents an important step in the aeronautical technology roadmap for 2035
The project builds on ArianeGroup’s experience in liquid hydrogen developed over decades working on Ariane launcher propulsion
In December 2020, Safran, Airbus, and ArianeGroup came together in a joint research project called HyPERION, with the support of the French Government’s Investments for the Future Program (PIA).
The goal of HyPERION (the project’s name is the French acronym for hydrogen for environmentally responsible aviation propulsion) was to explore safe and efficient technical hydrogen propulsion solutions which could offer an alternative to fossil fuel for commercial aviation by 2035.
HyPERION has enabled significant advances to be made in the definition of hydrogen propulsion systems for commercial aircraft, giving a high degree of security, and in the identification of the various technologies which still need to be developed.
The study covered the entire process from fuel leaving the tanks up to ejection of ignited gases. Distribution circuit definition drew heavily on ArianeGroup’s experience of fuel behavior on the Ariane launchers. Hydrogen is stored as a liquid, then conditioned so that it reaches an optimal temperature and pressure in the engines.
Several test programs were conducted under the HyPERION project: hydrogen combustion tests carried out in close collaboration with the French aerospace lab ONERA, compatibility tests on the metal materials, and tests on a first hydrogen conditioning system (pressure and temperature control).
On May 12, 2023, at its Vernon test facility, ArianeGroup successfully carried out a proof-of-concept test of a hydrogen conditioning system for supplying an aeronautical gas turbine; this first experiment was made possible by reusing equipment (electric pump, gas generator, exchangers) initially designed for space applications. This demonstration is the first step in expanding ArianeGroup’s space technologies to aeronautical applications.
“This successful conclusion to the HyPERION project confirms the potential of hydrogen as an energy source to facilitate decarbonizing civil aviation,” said Martin Sion, CEO of ArianeGroup. “These past few years of close collaboration with our parent companies have enabled us to identify the most promising propulsion system architectures and the technologies to be developed in the coming five years. We are proud of working together to help Europe’s transition towards low-carbon transport by pooling our know-how.”
HyPERION benefited from the unique combination of the proven know-how of Airbus, as an aircraft builder and aircraft fuel systems developer, together with its expertise in the design and manufacture of cryogenic storage systems, of Safran, as an engine manufacturer and designer of engine fuel systems, and of ArianeGroup, the Airbus–Safran joint-venture, the only European industrial company with expertise in liquid hydrogen propulsion technology for the space sector, with the Ariane launcher.
The HyPERION project is receiving support from the French Government via the DGAC (General Directorate for Civil Aviation) and is part of the Investments for the Future Program (PIA). It supplements other initiatives by Airbus, ArianeGroup, and Safran to lower the carbon footprint of air transport.