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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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Trump Increases NASA Spending by $1.6 Billion With Goal of Returning to Moon

"I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!"

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NASA
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine talks to employees about the agency's progress toward sending astronauts to the moon and on to Mars during a televised event, Monday, March 11, 2019. VOA

The Trump administration asked Congress on Monday to increase NASA spending next year by an extra $1.6 billion to accommodate the accelerated goal of returning Americans to the surface of the moon by 2024.

The increased funding request, announced by President Donald Trump on Twitter, comes nearly two months after Vice President Mike Pence declared the objective of shortening by four years NASA’s timeline for putting astronauts back on the moon for the first time since 1972.

The proposed increase would bring NASA’s total spending level for the 2020 fiscal year to $22.6 billion. The bulk of the increase is earmarked for research and development for a human lunar landing system, according to a summary provided by NASA.

NASA
“I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!”, says Trump. Pixabay

“Under my Administration, we are restoring @NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars,” Trump tweeted late on Monday. “I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!” NASA had previously aimed to return crewed spacecraft to the lunar surface by the year 2028, after first putting a “Gateway” station into orbit around the moon by 2024.

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The newly accelerated goal – an endeavor likely to cost tens of billions of dollars – comes as NASA has struggled with the help of private partners to resume human space missions from U.S. soil for the first time since the shuttle program ended in 2011.

The U.S. Apollo program, NASA’s forerunner to the effort at returning humans to Earth’s natural satellite, tallied six manned missions to the moon from 1969 to 1972. So far, only two other nations have conducted controlled “soft” landings on the moon – the former Soviet Union and China. But those were with unmanned robot vehicles. (VOA)