NASA tests 3D printed rocket fuel pump

NASA has created and repeatedly tested a turbopump component, created using selective laser melting and using 45 per cent fewer parts than usual.

According to a statement from the space agency, it is one of the most complex 3D printed engine parts created, and was tested 15 times, reaching full power. Its turbine reached over 90,000 revolutions per minute and generated over 2,000 horsepower.

“Designing, building, and testing a 3-D printed rocket part as complex as the fuel pump was crucial to Marshall’s upcoming tests of an additively manufactured demonstrator engine made almost entirely with 3-D printed parts,” said Mary Beth Koelbl, deputy manager of Marshall’s Propulsion Systems Department, at the Space Flight Center, Alabama.

“By testing this fuel pump and other rocket parts made with additive manufacturing, NASA aims to drive down the risks and costs associated with using an entirely new process to build rocket engines.”

Propulsion engineer Nick Case said the design and test of the pump and other parts, including valves and injectors for the demonstrator engine, was cut by around half, to two years.