CLEVELAND — NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne of West Palm Beach, Fla., recently finished testing a rocket engine injector made through additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing.
This space technology demonstration may lead to more efficient manufacturing of rocket engines, saving American companies time and money.
NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland conducted the successful tests for Aerojet Rocketdyne through a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement.
A series of firings of a liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly demonstrated the ability to design, manufacture and test a highly critical rocket engine component using selective laser melting manufacturing technology. Aerojet Rocketdyne designed and fabricated the injector by a method that employs high-powered laser beams to melt and fuse fine metallic powders into three dimensional structures.
"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 Washington. "3-D 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."
This type of injector manufactured with traditional processes would take more than a year to make but with these new processes it can be produced in less than four months, with a 70 percent reduction in cost.