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3D printed rocket engine to propel NASA missions soon

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Washington: A team of NASA engineers has inched closer to building a completely 3D printed, high-performance rocket engine by manufacturing complex engine parts; then test firing them together with cryogenic liquid hydrogen and oxygen to produce 20,000 pounds of thrust.

The team from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, tested 3D printed rocket engine parts connected together in the same fashion that they would work in a rocket engine.

The parts performance rivalled that of traditionally manufactured engine parts. During six separate tests, the engine generated up to 20,000 pounds of thrust.

“We manufactured and then tested about 75 percent of the parts needed to build a 3D printed rocket engine,” said Elizabeth Robertson, project manager at NASA.

“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,” Robertson explained in a statement.

Over the last three years, the Marshall team has been working with various vendors to make 3D printed parts, such as turbopumps and injectors, and test them individually.

To test them together, they connected the parts so that they work the same as they do in a real engine.

“In engineering language, this is called a breadboard engine,” explained Nick Case, testing lead for the effort.

Seven tests were performed with the longest tests lasting 10 seconds.

During the tests, the 3D printed demonstrator engine experienced all the extreme environments inside a flight rocket engine where fuel is burned at greater than 3,315 degrees Celsius to produce thrust.

“These NASA tests drive drown the costs and risks associated with using additive manufacturing, which is a relatively new process for making aerospace quality parts,” Robertson noted.

“This new manufacturing process has opened the design space and allowed for part geometries that would be impossible with traditional machining or casting methods,” added David Eddleman, one of Marshall’s propulsion designers.

Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a key technology for enhancing space vehicle designs and manufacturing and enabling more affordable exploration missions.(IANS)(image courtesy: NASA)

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NASA’s Curiosity Rover Captures Images of Martian Dust Storm

The last storm of global magnitude that enveloped Mars was in 2007, five years before Curiosity landed there

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NASA image.
NASA's Curiosity Rover Captures Images of Martian Dust Storm. Pixabay

With NASA engineers yet to make contact with the Opportunity Mars rover due to a massive storm on the Red Planet, scientists are pinning their hopes on learning more about Martian dust storms from images captured by the Curiosity probe.

As of Tuesday morning, the Martian dust storm had grown in size and was officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event, NASA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Though Curiosity is on the other side of Mars from Opportunity, dust has steadily increased over it, more than doubling over the weekend, NASA said.

The US space agency said the Curiosity Rover this month used its Mast Camera, or Mastcam, to snap photos of the intensifying haziness of the surface of Mars caused by the massive dust storm.

For NASA’s human scientists watching from the ground, Curiosity offers an unprecedented window to answer some questions. One of the biggest: Why do some Martian dust storms last for months and grow massive, while others stay small and last only a week?

“We don’t have any good idea,” said Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Mars Rover
Mars Rover, Pixabay

Curiosity, he pointed out, plus a fleet of spacecraft in the orbit of Mars, will allow scientists for the first time to collect a wealth of dust information both from the surface and from space.

The last storm of global magnitude that enveloped Mars was in 2007, five years before Curiosity landed there.

The current storm has starkly increased dust at Gale Crater, where the Curiosity rover is studying the storm’s effects from the surface.

But it poses little risk to the Curiosity rover, said Curiosity’s engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Also Read: NASA Plans To Install An Instrument To Monitor Plant Water Use

However, there was still no signal from the Opportunity rover, although a recent analysis of the rover’s long-term survivability in Mars’ extreme cold suggests Opportunity’s electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function.

Regardless, the project does not expect to hear from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover.

The dust storm is comparable in scale to a similar storm observed by Viking I in 1977, but not as big as the 2007 storm that Opportunity previously weathered. (IANS)

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