3D Printed Rocket Blasts Off
Kyle Maxey posted on July 15, 2013 |
Could 3D printing reduce the cost of space flight? NASA thinks so.

Rocket engines are expensive to produce.  However, NASA engineers have now successfully tested the first 3D printed rocket engine injector.

In a joint effort between NASA and Rocketdyne, laser sintering was used to create this critical components of a rocket engine.

In traditional rocket manufacturing, the injector the most expensive component, requiring highly toleranced machining.  It can take up to a year to produce. 

NASA found that 3D printing can shave 8 months off the development time of a rocket’s injector while reducing the overall cost by 70 percent.

According to Michael Gazarik, a NASA associate administrator “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".

While printing a critical piece of hardware represents a major advance in NASA’s ability to leverage 3D printing, engineers at the space agency see the technology being used for less critical components as well. In fact, Carol Tolbert, a manager of manufacturing and innovation is ready to move on to creating larger, full-sized 3D printed rocket components.

Over the last few years we’ve seen NASA’s interest in all manner of 3D printing blossom. In the future, the publicly funded space agency might become the breeding ground for new and innovative rocket manufacturing techniques. That can only bode well for private space companies, as they’ll have the opportunity to lease proven technologies for their efforts to make space flight more affordable.

Image Courtesy of NASA

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