A 3-D printed rocket injector was successfully tested by NASA at the premier space agency’s flight center in Alabama.
NDTV reported that the printing technology allowed engineers to print the injector, comprising 40 individual elements, as a single component as against traditional practice of manufacturing individual elements. If built traditionally, 163 individual components have to be manufactured and assembled. 3-D printing, also called additive manufacturing, required only two parts, the report said.
“We wanted to go a step beyond just testing an injector and demonstrate how 3D-printing could revolutionize rocket designs for increased system performance. The parts performed exceptionally well during the tests,” he said.
Describing the process, Engineering.com reported that engineers entered the design into the printer’s computer and the printer then layered metal powder to create each part. The component was fused together using laser.
NASA worked with two companies, in California and another in Austin, to produce the injectors. It seeks to collaborate with more such companies to establish standards for 3 D printing as a manufacturing process.
Meanwhile at Mashall Space Flight Center, the injectors produced 20,000 pounds of thrust when hydrogen and oxygen were combusted at 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Engineers said the printing technology also facilitated quicker and smarter testing of components as replacement parts can be quickly printed for any modification.
“Having an in-house additive manufacturing capability allows us to look at test data, modify parts or the test stand based on the data, implement changes quickly and get back to testing,” Nicholas Case, an engineer in the testing team told Engineers.com.
The recently tested injectors will power NASA’s exploration class Space Launch System (SLS) rockets. The rocket is being developed for exploration missions including human flights beyond Earth’s orbit and possibly to Mars, Value Walk reported.