NASA will use a 3D printed rocket nozzle to advance its space exploration efforts.


3D Printing Breakthrough: NASA Successfully Tests 3D Printed Rocket Nozzle

Private aerospace companies have been making great strides in utilizing 3D printing technology to advance their space exploration goals. However, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has also been actively embracing additive manufacturing. In fact, NASA has been involved in numerous projects involving 3D printing, including the production of moon rover wheels, components for the International Space Station, and even the incorporation of 3D printed circuitry in their rockets.

One of their latest achievements in this field is the successful testing of a 3D printed rocket engine nozzle made from aluminum. This breakthrough now opens up new possibilities for sending larger payloads into space, thanks to the lightweight nature of the material. The collaborative effort between NASA engineers from the Marshall Space Flight Center and 3D printing company Elementum 3D has led to the development of a new variant of aluminum specifically optimized for 3D printing rocket engine parts.

Aluminum has always been considered a promising choice for additive manufacturing due to its high strength and low weight. It has already been successfully used for 3D printing mechanical parts in various other industries, such as automotive gearbox and engine components. However, its use in rocketry has been limited due to its low heat tolerance, which makes the metal susceptible to cracking under extreme temperatures.

Under NASA’s Reactive Additive Manufacturing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (RAMFIRE) initiative, the team was able to engineer a solution to overcome this challenge. By designing rocket nozzles with small internal channels to redirect the heat and prevent the metal from melting, they were able to retain all the positive qualities of aluminum. Using laser powder directed energy deposition (LP-DED) 3D printing, the RAMFIRE nozzle can be printed as a single piece, whereas traditional manufacturing methods would require thousands of separate pieces to be combined.

The final parts were printed by another NASA partner, RPM Innovations, in Rapid City, South Dakota. Paul Gradl, the principal investigator of the RAMFIRE initiative at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, expressed his satisfaction with the results and the collaboration that went into developing and printing the rocket nozzle. He emphasized the importance of industry partnerships to advance the supply base and make additive manufacturing more accessible for NASA missions and the broader commercial and aerospace industry.

The reduction in weight offered by the 3D printed nozzle is a game changer for NASA, where every gram matters. It creates new opportunities for expanded travel to Earth’s orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The parts have already undergone testing, where they successfully withstood extreme heat and pressure, simulating deep space scenarios. Building on the success of the RAMFIRE rocket nozzle, NASA plans to expand its additive manufacturing efforts to include other projects involving aluminum, such as the production of satellite parts.

Furthermore, NASA aims to increase research collaboration and engagement with other additive manufacturing companies, stakeholders, and research bodies. This will facilitate the exchange of knowledge and promote further advancements in the field. The possibilities for additive manufacturing in space exploration are boundless, and NASA is at the forefront of harnessing this technology for the benefit of future missions.

If you’re interested in learning more about the RAMFIRE 3D printed rocket nozzle, you can read their detailed report [here](insert link to report). What are your thoughts on this groundbreaking development? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages! And don’t forget to sign up for our free weekly newsletter to receive the latest 3D printing news straight to your inbox. You can also find all our videos on our YouTube channel.

*Cover Photo Credits: RPM Innovation

Original source


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