NASA’s lightweight breakthrough 3D-Printed rocket parts defying heat.

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When you think of rocket parts, you probably envision heavy, complex components. But NASA is challenging that perception with an extraordinary innovation that’s turning heads in the aerospace industry. They’ve joined forces with Elementum 3D, a pioneering additive manufacturing company, to push the boundaries of rocket design. The result? Lightweight, 3D-printed rocket parts that can endure the rigors of space travel.

Aluminum is known for its lightweight properties, making it an attractive choice for rocket construction. However, it has one significant drawback: a low tolerance for extreme heat and welding challenges. This had previously made it unsuitable for rocket parts subjected to high temperatures during launches. But NASA doesn’t back down from a challenge. As part of the Reactive Additive Manufacturing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (RAMFIRE) project, supported by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, a novel aluminum variant known as A6061-RAM2 was born. This variant was specifically engineered for additive manufacturing techniques, and it’s a game-changer.

NASA leveraged laser powder-directed energy deposition (LP-DED) technology to build rocket engine nozzles using this aluminum variant. The secret sauce behind their success was the introduction of small internal channels within the nozzle structure. These channels play a crucial role in maintaining temperatures below the aluminum’s melting point. As a result, traditional welding is unnecessary. The beauty of 3D printing lies in its efficiency. Unlike conventional nozzle manufacturing, which requires the assembly of thousands of parts, these 3D-printed nozzles are produced as single components. This not only reduces manufacturing time but also enhances reliability. And, in the harsh conditions of deep space, reliability is everything.

The RAMFIRE nozzles have undergone rigorous testing to ensure their mettle. They’ve endured multiple hot-fire tests and faced more than 825 pounds per square inch of pressure. Surpassing these tests means they’re well-prepared for the extreme conditions of deep space missions. NASA’s breakthrough paved the way for the future of rocketry. By embracing 3D printing and innovative aluminum variants, they’re revolutionizing the industry. The reduced manufacturing complexity, enhanced durability, and decreased weight are transforming how we think about rocket construction.

By Ray Osorio. NASA’s Innovative Rocket Nozzle Paves Way for Deep Space Missions.

By Matthew Humphries. October 24, 2023. NASA Uses 3D Printing to Make Lighter Rocket Parts.

3D Printed next-generation satellite without support

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The Mountain View, California-based Nasa awarded $73.7 million to startup ‘Made In Space,’ for ‘Archinaut” spacecraft-assembly technology an orbital test.’ A 3D-printed next-generation satellite without support refers to using advanced 3D printing techniques to produce satellite components that can be built without supporting structures. This allows for the creation of complex designs that are impossible using traditional manufacturing methods.

Using 3D printing technology for satellite construction without support structures can result in significant benefits, such as reduced weight, increased durability, and lower costs. The absence of support structures also allows for creating of more intricate designs, which can improve the overall performance of the satellite. 3D printing technology enables the production of satellite components with greater precision and accuracy, improving the satellite’s reliability and efficiency. While 3D-printed next-generation satellites without support are still in the experimental stage, researchers and scientists are continuing to explore the potential of this technology in developing the next generation of satellites. The ability to produce more lightweight and efficient satellites has important implications for space exploration and communication. It can increase the number of satellites that can be launched and reduce the cost of satellite deployment. Lastly, 3D printing technology is poised to revolutionize how satellites are designed and constructed. The development of next-generation satellites without support structures is just one example of this technology’s many exciting possibilities.

Mr.Jim Reuter, an associate administrator of NASA‘s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said, “In-space robotic manufacturing and assembly are unquestionable game-changers and fundamental capabilities for future space exploration. By developing this transformative technology, the United States will maintain its leadership in space exploration as we push forward with astronauts to the moon and Mars. Archinaut features a 3D printer and robotic manipulator arms. Together, this tech will eventually allow the craft to perform various valuable tasks off Earth, from fixing and upgrading satellites (with ultrapowerful solar arrays, for example) to building huge structures such as space telescopes.”