Nov 25, 2015 | By Benedict

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize just how much 3D printing is taking off in the aerospace industry. Two months ago, we reported that NASA had been conducting tests on 3D printed F-1 rocket engine parts, built by rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne. Now, the space administration and its business partner have put pen to paper on a nine year contract to restart production of the RS-25 engine for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). SLS will be the most powerful rocket in the world, and will eventually be used to send a manned space shuttle to Mars. As if that wasn’t exciting enough on its own, Aerojet Rocketdyne also plans to use 3D printing technology in its production of the RS-25, having seen positive results from initial tests on 3D printed components.

"SLS is America's next generation heavy lift system," said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Advanced Space & Launch Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "This is the rocket that will enable humans to leave low Earth orbit and travel deeper into the solar system, eventually taking humans to Mars.”

The contract awarded to Aerojet Rocketdyne, the prime contractor for the RS-25, is worth a staggering $1.16 billion, and will run from November 2015 until September 30th, 2024. Since the space shuttle program was retired, production lines for the RS-25 engine have significantly improved, and four RS-25 engines will help to propel the core stage of the SLS rocket with more than two million pounds of total thrust.

SLS will see its first action in 2018, when it will carry out its highly anticipated first test flight. The rocket will be configured for a 70-metric-ton lift capacity and will carry an Orion spacecraft, minus its crew. This, however, is just the beginning. NASA’s ultimate goal is to give SLS a lift capacity of 130 metric tons.

"The RS-25 engines designed under this new contract will be expendable with significant affordability improvements over previous versions," explained Jim Paulsen, vice president, Program Execution, Advanced Space & Launch Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. "This is due to the incorporation of new technologies, such as the introduction of simplified designs; 3D printing technology called additive manufacturing; and streamlined manufacturing in a modern, state-of-the-art fabrication facility.”

To reduce manufacturing time and cost, Aerojet Rocketdyne will use simplified yet reliable designs, including those made with 3D printing. Key components of the engine will be simplified, reducing the total number of parts and welds, meaning fewer weak spots. As well as design simplification, Value Stream Mapping (VSM) analyses have identified cost and schedule benefits to be found in eliminating inefficiencies and redundancies in the production process.

Following news of the lucrative contract between NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne, it seems only a matter of time before additive manufacturing will be sending astronauts to Mars. 3D…2…1…Blast-off!



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Ken wrote at 11/26/2015 6:05:11 PM:

"...will eventually be used to send a manned space shuttle to Mars" ummm no. It won't be lifting any space shuttle anywhere.

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