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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 Selects Proposals For Four new Missions Related To Cosmic Explosions

Excluding the cost of launch, SMEX mission costs are capped at $145 million each, and MO costs are capped at $75 million each

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Following detailed evaluations, NASA intends to select two proposals in 2021 to be the next astrophysics missions under the agency's Explorers Programme. Wikimedia Commons

NASA has selected proposals for four missions that would study cosmic explosions and the debris they leave behind, as well as monitor how nearby stellar flares may affect the atmospheres of orbiting planets.

Following detailed evaluations, NASA intends to select two proposals in 2021 to be the next astrophysics missions under the agency’s Explorers Programme.

The selected missions will be targeted for launch in 2025, the US space agency said on Monday.

“These promising proposals under the Explorers Program bring out some of the most creative, innovative ways to help uncover the secrets of the universe,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, Associate Administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

“From studying stars and planets outside our solar system to seeking answers to the largest cosmic mysteries, I look forward to the breakthrough science from these modest size missions,” Zurbuchen said.

Earth, Globe, Atmosphere, Clouds, Sky, Space Shuttle
NASA has selected proposals for four missions that would study cosmic explosions and the debris they leave behind, as well as monitor how nearby stellar flares may affect the atmospheres of orbiting planets. Pixabay

Two astrophysics Small Explorer (SMEX) missions and two Missions of Opportunity (MO) proposals were competitively selected, based on potential science value and feasibility of development plans.

Excluding the cost of launch, SMEX mission costs are capped at $145 million each, and MO costs are capped at $75 million each.

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Each SMEX proposal will receive $2 million to conduct a nine-month mission concept study. (IANS)