3D printing promises 70 per cent reduction in rocket part costs

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NASA and rocket engine maker Aerojet Rocketdyne have successfully tested an injector made by laser additive manufacturing.

A series of firings of a liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen rocket injector assembly demonstrated the ability to design, manufacture and test an injector using selective laser melting, a version of laser additive manufacturing. Such an injector, manufactured with traditional processes, would take more than a year but 3D printing can make it in less than four months along with a 70 per cent reduction in cost.

‘NASA recognises 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.

NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland conducted the successful tests for Aerojet Rocketdyne through a non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement. Glenn and Aerojet Rocketdyne partnered on the project with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) at Edwards Air Force Base, California. At the AFRL, a high-pressure facility provided pre-test data early in the research to give insights into the spray patterns of additively manufactured injector elements.