A turbopump is a gas turbine that comprises basically two main components: a rotodynamic pump and a driving turbine, usually both mounted on the same shaft, or sometimes geared together. The purpose of a turbopump is to produce a high pressure fluid for feeding a combustion chamber or other use.
A turbopump can comprise one of two types of pumps: centrifugal pump, where the pumping is done by throwing fluid outward at high speed; or axial flow pump, where alternating rotating and static blades progressively raise the pressure of a fluid.
Axial flow pumps have small diameters, but give relatively modest pressure increases, and multiple compression stages are needed. Centrifugal pumps are far more powerful, but physically larger diameter.
Turbopumps operate in much the same way as turbo units for vehicles. Higher fuel pressures allow fuel to be supplied to higher-pressure combustion chambers for higher performance engines.
High-pressure pumps for larger missiles had been discussed by rocket pioneers such as Hermann Oberth. In mid-1935 Wernher von Braun initiated a fuel pump project at the southwest German firm Klein, Schanzlin & Becker that was experienced in building large fire-fighting pumps.:80 The V-2 rocket design used hydrogen peroxide decomposed through a Walther steam generator to power the uncontrolled turbopump:81 produced at the Heinkel plant at Jenbach, so V-2 turbopumps and combustion chamber were tested and matched to prevent the pump from overpressurizing the chamber.:172 The first engine fired successfully in September, and on August 16, 1942, a trial rocket stopped in mid-air and crashed due to a failure in the turbopump. The first successful V-2 launch was on October 3, 1942.
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