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.
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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