NASA rocket tests compare 3D printed parts with traditional components

NASA scientists have tested a gas generator – a key part of the F-1 rocket engine of the type that that propelled the Saturn V and sent men to Moon – using parts made in a 3D printer.

Engineers fired the 1960s ere rocket engine gas generator in 2013 with traditionally made parts and compared it with this one made with additive manufacturing.

The test gives a direct one-to-one comparison.

“This test gave NASA the rare opportunity to test a 3-D printed rocket engine part, an engine part for which we have lots of data, including a test done three years ago with modern instrumentation,” said Chris Protz.

“This adds to the database we are creating by testing injectors, turbo pumps and other 3-D printed rocket engine parts of interest to both NASA and industry.”

Additive manufacturing layers metallic powders to form engine parts, but much is still unknown about the ability to produce rocket engine parts reliable enough for use on launch vehicles carrying humans. Over the last few years, NASA engineers have built and tested a variety of complex rocket components manufactured with 3-D printing processes. The part put to the test in this particular series, a gas generator, supplies power to fuel pump to deliver propellant to the engine.

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