This is one of the cornerstones of a rocket engine. Turbopumps fueling the rocket engine and fuel combustion. Critical mechanical parts that revolves at high speed. For the first time, NASA has tested a turbopump designed to be fully manufactured by 3D printing. It managed to make it work to the blinding speed of 90,000 rpm. Similar in size to that of a washing machine motor at such a speed of rotation, the turbopump delivers over 4,542 liters of liquid hydrogen per minute. This is a key component of the rocket that will take one day man on Mars
45% fewer parts in this turbopump through 3D printing
Even the most demanding parts can now be produced with 3D printing, including rocket engines. SpaceX already produced the combustion chamber of the rocket engine SuperDraco via 3D printing process DMLS metal (metal laser sintering Direct). This engine has a thrust of 16,000 pounds (7.2 tonnes) and can be reignited multiple times during the flight. This time, NASA tested a turbopump conducted using the laser additive manufacturing technique called SLS (Selective Laser Sintering), a pump capable of feeding a rocket engine thrust of 35,000 pounds (nearly 35 tons). A key component of the engine of the rocket type II Space Launch System Block 143 tonnes as Nasa prepares to bring one day the man on Mars.
In addition to its performance, the turbo has the advantage to have 45% fewer parts than a product equivalent model with conventional processes. A simplification which obviously does not come at the sacrifice of reliability since the turbopump has passed the series of 15 flight simulations which it was submitted this summer.
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“Successful NASA Rocket Fuel Pump Tests Pave Way for 3-D Printed Demonstrator Engine”, NASA release, August 26, 2015
“SpaceX completes qualification testing superdraco thruster”, SpaceX press release, April 27, 2014