When we last left Tom Williams and his team of young engineers, they were busy bringing monster 1960s-era rocket engines back to life. That work continues to pay dividends, but Williams and the propulsion systems team at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, have a wide variety of projects in the works at the moment. Their latest? 3D printing rocket components from scratch and firing them.
The test shown above, which occurred on August 22, involved an entire 3D printed injector plate—the largest 3D printed component NASA has ever tested. It delivered enough fuel and oxygen to produce 20,000 lbs of thrust (about 89 kilonewtons), a bit more than you can get from an F-15’s Pratt and Whitney F100 turbofan running at full power.
This is really quite nice. Instead of spending huge amounts of time and money (neither of which NASA has a lot of) they can use 3D printing to make the metal parts they need.
The results are close enough to test out different designs. Once they figure stuff out, the data is available to anyone. Well dome.