HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Two contractors with NASA, Dynetics and Aerojet Rocketdyne, recently performed a successful test series for a gas generator engine part of the Space Launch System (SLS). That test also helped engineers determine something else – the strength of a 3D-printed component.
NASA awarded the Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration and/or Risk Reduction (ABEDRR) contract in the fall of 2012. The administration wanted to reduce risks for boosters that could meet SLS’s future capability needs. The month-long test took place in a full-scale cryogenic tank designed and fabricated by Dynetics, the prime contractor.
This particular test series had a key component of the gas generator that was build using additive manufacturing, or 3-D printing, techniques. At 30,000 pounds, the component is among the highest thrust levels ever demonstrated by a part printed by a 3-D printer.
In 2013, an F-1 gas generator made with 1960s-era parts was tested at new conditions to verify its applicability to the NASA SLS requirements. Testing the 3D-printed gas generator provided an opportunity for a one-to-one comparison of a part built with traditional manufacturing to a part built with the SLM process. The two test series were highly successful and the results were nearly identical, giving confidence in the new, lower-cost manufacturing methods.
Dynetics CEO David King said, “The successful testing of this technology lays the groundwork
for future rocket engine development – both for NASA and for others who want the most
affordable space solutions.”
“Testing of this hardware is just one more step Aerojet Rocketdyne is taking to develop
affordable approaches to building complex, advanced rocket engine hardware supporting our
current and future engine programs,” said Brian Lariviere, F-1B engine program manager at
Aerojet Rocketdyne. “The F-1 gas generator fabrication using the SLM process demonstrated
part reduction costs by 50 percent and decreased delivery schedules from months to weeks.”
Andy Crocker, ABEDRR program manager at Dynetics, said, “This test series is further proof
that our team has been able to take successful designs from the past and apply the latest
manufacturing methods to create the best of both worlds – a low-cost, proven engine
Crocker also said, “I want to compliment the test team from NASA Marshall and Aerojet
Rocketdyne on this effort. They were prepared and efficient. They built on previous work in this area to quickly and effectively bring the tests to fruition.”