Rocket engine's core main injector built using additive manufacturing completes tests

Tests of the RL10 upper-stage rocket engine, which includes a core main injector built using additive manufacturing, have completed.

Aerojet Rocketdyne (Sacramento, CA), a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, has completed a series of successful hot-fire tests of its RL10 upper-stage rocket engine, which includes a core main injector built using additive manufacturing. The work was done in conjunction with the U.S. Air Force and NASA’s Glenn Research Center as part of the RL10 Additive Manufacturing Study (RAMS) program, which aims to demonstrate the capability of additively manufactured complex parts and qualify them for use in large rocket engines.

The core main injector was fabricated using an additive manufacturing technology known as selective laser melting, which uses a high-power laser to fuse powdered metal and form detailed components that can perform under the extreme pressures and operating conditions of rocket engines.

“While we have had success developing additive manufacturing technology for a broad range of products—from discrete engine components to hot-fire testing engines and propulsion systems made entirely with additive manufacturing—this is among the most complex components we have tested in a large rocket engine to date,” explains Dr. Jay Littles, director of Advanced Launch Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “However, we’ve just scratched the surface of what this technology will do to revolutionize our industry. Our design engineers are just starting to take advantage of the expanded possibilities enabled by this new manufacturing technology. They are now free to design products that were once thought impossible to build due to the constraints of traditional manufacturing.”

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