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Hot-fire tests show 3D-printed rocket parts rival traditionally manufactured parts
Friday, 26 July 2013 14:24

NASA engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., have put rocket engine parts to the test and compared their performance to parts made the old-fashioned way with welds and multiple parts during planned subscale acoustic tests for the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket.

In little more than a month, Marshall engineers built two subscale injectors with a specialized 3-D printing machine and completed 11 mainstage hot-fire tests, accumulating 46 seconds of total firing time at temperatures nearing 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit while burning liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen.

“We saw no difference in performance of the 3-D printed injectors compared to the traditionally manufactured injectors,” said Sandra Elam Greene, the propulsion engineer who oversaw the tests and inspected the components afterward. “Two separate 3-D printed injectors operated beautifully during all hot-fire tests.”

Post-test inspections showed the injectors remained in such excellent condition and performed so well the team will continue to put them directly in the line of fire.

“The additive manufacturing process has the potential to reduce the time and cost associated with making complex parts by an order of magnitude,” said Chris Singer, director of the Marshall Center’s Engineering Directorate.

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