Mar. 16, 2015

Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp company, has recently completed a successful series of hot-fire tests of key components for its AR1 booster engine at its Sacramento test facility. The single-element main injector for the AR1 rocket engine was completely built using 3D printing.

The AR1 is a 500,000 lbf thrust-class liquid oxygen/kerosene booster engine currently in development as an American-made alternative to engines such as the foreign-supplied RD-180. The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act calls for the Russian-built RD-180 to be replaced by an American-made alternative for national security space launches by 2019. Started in 2014 and supported by NASA Advanced Booster Engineering Demonstration/Risk Reduction program, the AR1 program is an aggressive effort aimed at delivering a flight-qualified engine in 2019.

"We believe the AR1 is the best, most affordable option to eliminate U.S. dependence on foreign sources of propulsion while maintaining assured access to space for our nation's critical national security and civil space assets," said Linda Cova, executive director of Hydrocarbon Engine Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The AR1 is designed to integrate with the Atlas V launch vehicle, as well as provide a versatile propulsion solution for multiple current and future launch vehicle applications. "When you consider the minimal changes to the Atlas V launch vehicle, launch pad and related infrastructure that are required with an AR1 solution, this approach is clearly the best path toward finding a replacement for the RD-180 and meeting the launch needs of our nation," said Cova.

The single-element main injector hot-fire tests were conducted to evaluate various main injector element designs and fabrication methods. Several injectors were fabricated using Selective Laser Melting (SLM), a form of additive manufacturing. Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, enables the rapid production of complex engine components at a fraction of the cost of those produced using traditional manufacturing techniques.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has invested heavily in developing SLM capabilities for application to its rocket engines. Tested in excess of 2,000 psi, Aerojet Rocketdyne believes the AR1 single-element hot-fire tests represent the highest pressure hot-fire test of an 3D printed part in a rocket engine application. In the main injector alone, additive manufacturing offers the potential for a nine month reduction in part lead times, and a 70 percent reduction in cost, according to the company.

A similar multi-element injector built using additive manufacturing will be hot-fire tested this spring.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to the space, missile defense and strategic systems. Last year the company has successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on a Bantam demonstration engine built entirely with 3D printing.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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