“The component tested during the engine firing, an injector, delivers propellants to power an engine and provides the thrust necessary to send rockets to space. During the injector test, liquid oxygen and gaseous hydrogen passed through the component into a combustion chamber and produced 10 times more thrust than any injector previously fabricated using 3-D printing.”
The rocket engine injector was created by Directed Manufacturing Inc., of Austin, Texas using a form of 3D printing called “selective laser melting” with layers of a nickel-chromium allow. The 3D printed version of the rocket engine injector had only two parts whereas a similar one manufactured conventionally would have had 115 parts. Thus there is less assembly required and significant cost savings potentially for both Space Launch System and commercial rocket engines.
“Early data from the test, conducted at pressures up to 1,400 pounds per square inch absolute and at almost 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit, indicate the injector worked flawlessly. In the days to come, engineers will perform computer scans and other inspections to scrutinize the component more closely.”
NASA is also examining 3D printing technology for everything from making spare parts and tools in the International Space Station and long duration space trips to even printing astronaut food in what are in effect “Star Trek” style replicators.