We are no strangers to 3D-printers today. These new printers have been all over the news the past year. Likewise the National Aeronautics and Space Administration or commonly known as NASA has been testing out a variety of 3D-printed rocket engine parts for the past few years. However, a groundbreaking revelation has been made in recent studies where NASA has come closer than ever to building an entire rocket engine. This highly sophisticated engine could possibly generate enough power for a Mars-lander.
A seventy-five percent of the structural composition consists of only the turbo pumps, injectors, and the valves that work together to get the rocket airborne. When individually tested, these three components have excelled their expected results, NASA claims.
For another recent test conducted at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, NASA connected these individual components for a test run and the results were astounding. They found that the 3D-printed engine generated an increased 20,000 pounds of thrusts while being perfectly equipped to withstand 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The conditions perfectly suit a Mars-lander. In an interview, project manager Elizabeth Robertson stated, "By testing the turbo pumps, injectors, and valves together, we’ve shown that it would be possible to build a 3D-printed engine for multiple purposes such as landers, in-space propulsion or rocket engine upper stages."
The parts however go through very selective method and are manufactured out of powdered metal through laser melting 3D-printing process. But this new leap for NASA has made it possible to attain an engine that is budget worthy while being suited to fly to Mars. The 3D-printing of the components NASA established a structure that required ewer components to house it. A traditional injector would consist of about more than 200 parts whereas NASA has reshaped and manufactured it into a small sphere about the size of a football.
On the other hand, the traditional valves take upto more than a year to manufacture while the 3D-printed ones simply take a few months while reducing costs by 70%, saving both time and money. Both vital for NASA as they plan to begin printing the next batch of rocket engines for its dated to begin in 2017.
At the rate NASA is going, soon we will be saving up for trips to Mars as well.
Cover Image: A 3-D printed turbopump to be used with a methane-powered engine, a core part of the rocket engines. Credits: NASA/MSFC
Thumbnail Image: During a series of test firings at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, 3-D printed rocket engine parts worked together successful under the same conditions experience inside rocket engines used in space. The turbopump was tested at full power, pumping 1,200 gallons of liquid hydrogen per minute and the injector produced 20,0000 pounds of thrust. Credit: NASA/MSFC/David Olive