NASA develops aluminum rocket nozzles using 3D printing technology!

NASA has successfully developed lightweight aluminum rocket nozzles using 3D printing technology, overcoming traditional aluminum limitations.

| Updated on: Oct 24 2023, 20:50 IST
Bad news! ISRO faces new threats for Chandrayaan-3 mission's Vikram lander and Pragyan rover
aluminum rocket nozzles
1/5 Chandrayaan-3 mission, the Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) ambitious lunar project in the form of the Vikram Lander and Pragyan Rover, currently rest in a dormant state on the Moon's surface. This mission successfully landed on the Moon on August 23 and conducted numerous experiments. Now, both the lander and rover are in sleep mode from which ISRO is not being able to revive them. However, ISRO has not lost hope.  (ISRO)
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2/5 But now, according to a report by India Today, Chandrayaan-3 mission is facing new threats. These threats to Vikram and Pragyan stem from the dangerous micrometeoroid impacts. A senior ISRO official explained that these tiny particles constantly bombard the lunar surface and pose a risk to the Vikram lander and Pragyan rover. While the Moon's lack of atmosphere and oxygen prevents corrosion, the potential damage from these impacts and the extreme cold during the lunar night is a concern. (ISRO)
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3/5 Additionally, the absence of an atmosphere on the Moon exposes the spacecraft to constant radiation bombardment from the Sun, potentially causing damage over time. (ISRO)
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4/5 Despite these threats, ISRO scientists are happy with the mission's performance. Chandrayaan-3's objectives were to explore the lunar south polar region, known for its water ice reserves. The rover's discovery of sulfur on the lunar surface near the South Pole is significant, and it also detected various other elements, expanding our knowledge of the Moon's composition. (ISRO)
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5/5 The mission's seismic activity measurements and the sulfur discovery have offered valuable insights into the Moon's geological processes. The Vikram lander's hop experiment on the Moon, which lifted off and landed nearby, showcased the potential for future missions to return lunar samples. Chandrayaan-3's data collection has not only advanced our understanding of the Moon but also paved the way for forthcoming lunar and interplanetary expeditions. (ISRO)
aluminum rocket nozzles
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NASA's revolutionary aluminum rocket nozzles, created through 3D printing in collaboration with Elementum 3D, mark a significant step towards efficient and lightweight rocket components for future deep space missions. (representative image) (pixabay)

NASA, in collaboration with Elementum 3D, has developed a groundbreaking aluminum rocket engine nozzle using additive manufacturing technology, also known as 3D printing. The nozzle is part of NASA's RAMFIRE (Reactive Additive Manufacturing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution) project, funded under NASA's Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

The aluminum used in this project is a specially designed variant called A6061-RAM2, which can withstand high temperatures and welding, overcoming typical limitations of aluminum in rocket engine construction.

Conventional rocket nozzles are made up of numerous individually joined parts, but the RAMFIRE nozzle is manufactured as a single piece, significantly reducing the number of bonds and manufacturing time.

The nozzle incorporates small internal channels to keep it cool and prevent melting, allowing for the use of aluminum in its construction.

RPM Innovations in Rapid City, South Dakota, utilized this innovative aluminum and specialized powder with laser powder directed energy deposition (LP-DED) technology to build the RAMFIRE nozzles.

NASA aims to send more cargo to deep space destinations as part of its Moon to Mars objectives, and the lightweight yet durable aluminum alloy can play a pivotal role in achieving this goal.

Two RAMFIRE nozzles successfully completed hot-fire tests with different fuel configurations, demonstrating their ability to operate in demanding deep-space environments.

The project has also used the RAMFIRE aluminum material and additive manufacturing process to construct other advanced components, such as a 36-inch diameter aerospike nozzle and a vacuum-jacketed tank for cryogenic fluid applications.

NASA and its partners are actively sharing their data and processes with commercial stakeholders and academia to explore potential applications of this novel alloy and the LP-DED additive manufacturing process in various aerospace and satellite components. This development holds great promise for the future of space exploration and propulsion systems.

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First Published Date: 24 Oct, 20:50 IST