How Aerojet Rocketdyne used lasers and 3D printing for rocket parts

recision parts manufactured with new laser techniques were tested successfully in Rancho Cordova, earlier this month toward a new space launch motor Aerojet Rocketdyne is developing for U.S. military and satellite missions.

The company announced Monday it completed successful tests of two different injectors for use in the new rocket motor. Both were made by “additive manufacturing,” which is the metal version of 3D printing. In this case, Aerojet Rocketdyne used lasers to melt metal into complicated rocket components.

The process represents a 70 percent reduction in production costs, said Linda Cova, executive director of hydrocarbon engine programs with Aerojet Rocketdyne. The company began a program to develop its AR1 heavy launch motor 18 months ago.

Many American heavy space launches now depend on Russian-built RD-180 first-stage engines, which produce 1 million pounds of thrust. Future access to those engines is in doubt, however, with the current conflicts between Russia and the U.S. over Ukraine. … (read more)


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