Marshall Space Flight Center has developed and demonstrated a measurement device for sensing and resolving the hydrodynamic loads on fluid machinery. The device — a derivative of the six-component wind tunnel balance — senses the forces and moments on the rotating device through a weakened shaft section instrumented with a series of strain gauges. This “rotating balance” was designed to directly measure the steady and unsteady hydrodynamic loads on an inducer, thereby defining the amplitude and frequency content associated with operating in various cavitation modes. The rotating balance was calibrated statically using a dead-weight load system in order to generate the 6 × 12 calibration matrix later used to convert measured voltages to engineering units. Structural modeling suggested that the rotating assembly first bending mode would be significantly reduced with the balance’s inclusion. This reduction in structural stiffness was later confirmed experimentally with a hammer-impact test. This effect, coupled with the relatively large damping associated with the rotating balance waterproofing material, limited the device’s bandwidth to approximately 50 Hertz. Other pre-test validations included sensing the test article rotating assembly built-in imbalance for two configurations and directly measuring the assembly mass and buoyancy while submerged under water. Both tests matched predictions and confirmed the device’s sensitivity while stationary and rotating. The rotating balance was then demonstrated in a water test of a full-scale Space Shuttle Main Engine high-pressure liquid oxygen pump inducer. Experimental data was collected a scaled operating conditions at three flow coefficients across a range of cavitation numbers for the single inducer geometry and radial clearance. Two distinct cavitation modes were observed: symmetric tip vortex cavitation and alternate-blade cavitation. Although previous experimental tests on the same inducer demonstrated two additional cavitation modes at lower inlet pressures, these conditions proved unreachable with the rotating balance installed due to the intense dynamic environment. The sensed radial load was less influenced by flow coefficient than by cavitation number or cavitation mode although the flow coefficient range was relatively narrow. Transition from symmetric tip vortex to alternate-blade cavitation corresponded to changes in both radial load magnitude and radial load orientation relative to the inducer. Sensed moments indicated that the effective load center moved downstream during this change in cavitation mode. An occurrence of “higher-order cavitation” was also detected in both the stationary pressures and the rotating balance data although the frequency of the phenomena was well above the reliable bandwidth of the rotating balance. In summary the experimental tests proved both the concept and device’s capability despite the limitations and confirmed that hydrodynamically-induced forces and moments develop in response to the unbalanced pressure field, which is, in turn, a product of the cavitation environment.

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