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NASA Test Fires 3D Printed Rocket Engine

Popular Mechanics reports on a recent successful test of a partially 3D printed rocket engine by NASA.  The hot-fire test involved a 3D printed combustion chamber for the rocket engine.

“The successful test is the latest in a series of advancements in 3D printed rocket technology from both private companies and public research groups.”  This particular engine marks a collaboration between “three NASA centers across the country: Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio; Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia; and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.”

Back in 2015, “material scientists at Glenn developed a powdered copper alloy that engineers at Marshall used to 3D-print the space agency’s first full-scale copper rocket engine part, a lining for the combustion chamber.”  Now, due to this most recent collaboration, the chamber jacket for that lining was 3D printed.  “Chamber jackets are used to help protect parts of the engine from the immense pressure generated in the engine’s combustion chamber.”

Copper may be conductive, but it isn’t strong enough.  Therefore, NASA “has covered the part in a nickel-alloy jacket, which provides a sturdy structure to withstand the stress from pressure.”  Due to all of NASA’s research into additive manufacturing over the last few years, hand-on engineering processes can now be eliminated.  These jackets can now “be made in hours as opposed to days or weeks.”

As for this test, “the lining and the jacket were placed in a test stand, and the engine was fired to simulate launch conditions.  The hot fire ran for 25 seconds at 100 percent power for the engine.  Both parts passed with flying colors.”

Image Courtesy of NASA

Quotes Courtesy of Popular Mechanics

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