NASA has successfully tested a rocket part produced via additive manufacturing.
The rocket engine injector was made through collaboration between NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne of West Palm Beach, Fla., using selective laser sintering. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed and produced the injector assembly in roughly four months, compared to the year required by traditional processes.
To demonstrate reliability, NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne performed liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen burns on the injector at Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Rocket engine components are complex machined pieces that require significant labor and time to produce. The injector is one of the most expensive components of an engine,” said Tyler Hickman, who led the testing at Glenn.
NASA has expressed interest in 3D printing technology for space applications because of these time and cost savings, as well as the fact that AM can produce lightweight parts.
“NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by printing tools, engine parts, or even entire spacecraft,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology, in a statement. “3D manufacturing offers opportunities to optimize the fit, form, and delivery systems of materials that will enable our space missions while directly benefiting American businesses here on Earth.”