Will 3D Printing Change the Way we get to Space?

NASA Successfully Tests 3D-Printed Rocket Parts

In addition to installing a 3D printer on the International Space Station, NASA has been testing whether 3D-printed rocket engine parts can withstand the pressure and heat associated with a launch into space.

Recent tests have shown that, so far, a 3D-printed injector and liner performed as well as more traditionally manufactured parts. During a 'hot' firing, the rocket components were blasted with a temperature of 3,300°C (6,000°F) for 46 seconds over a series of 11 mainstage tests.

3D printed injector

3D-printed rocket injector straight out of the printer (left) and after polishing (right). NASA/MFC.

Sandra Elam Greene, who oversaw the tests, said,

The two separate 3-D printed injectors operated beautifully during all hot-fire tests.

 

3D printing could conceivably lower the cost of manufacturing the myriad parts needed for rocket engines, making access to space more affordable. This particular injector took only three weeks to manufacture, at half the cost of the more traditional process. As Chris Singer, director of the Marshall Center's Engineering Directorate, said,

Rocket engines are complex, with hundreds of individual components that many suppliers typically build and assemble, so testing an engine component built with a new process helps verify that it might be an affordable way to make future rockets. The additive manufacturing process has the potential to reduce the time and cost associated with making complex parts by an order of magnitude.

 

This video from Nasa puts you in the test stand for this last test. Watch it and enjoy!

 

 

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