Hot-Fire Tests Show 3D-Printed Rocket Parts Rival Traditionally Manufactured Parts
3D-printed rocket parts could save NASA and industry money and open up affordable design possibilities for rockets and spacecraft, but until recently, rocket parts critical to engine combustion in a hot-fire environment had not been tested. During planned subscale acoustic tests for the Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, NASA engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center put both 3D-printed rocket engine parts and conventionally made parts to the test. Traditional subscale rocket injectors for early SLS acoustic tests took six months to fabricate, had four parts, and cost more than $10,000 each. The Marshall engineers built the same injector in one piece using a 3D printing process called selective laser melting, which took about three weeks and cost under $5,000 to manufacture. After hot-fire tests where temperatures reached nearly 6,000 degrees F, the NASA engineers saw no difference in performance.