NASA puts 3-D printing to the test with rocket injector

At a record 20,000 pounds of thrust, the largest 3-D-printed rocket engine component roared to life, marking a major NASA milestone.

The test, which occurred Aug. 22, is part of a series of experiments this summer in 3-D printing and additive manufacturing, efforts NASA hopes will cultivate more cost-effective endeavors in the U.S. space industry.

“This successful test of a 3-D printed rocket injector brings NASA significantly closer to proving this innovative technology can be used to reduce the cost of flight hardware,” Chris Singer, director of the engineering directorate at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The specific part tested in the engine firing was an injector, which delivers propellants to power the engine, giving it the thrust necessary to propel the rocket into space. NASA said 3-D printing may cut manufacturing costs by lowering the number of parts needed in the assembly process. The injector used in this test had only two parts compared to the injector tested before it, which had 115 parts.


The injector used is similar to injectors for large engines, such as the RS-25 engine, which will power NASA’s space launch system rocket for deep space human missions to an asteroid or Mars.

Directed Manufacturing Inc., in Austin, Texas made the injector, but the design for the injector belongs to NASA. In the spirit of open data, all test and materials data will be made available to all U.S. companies through Materials and Processes Information System database managed by Marshall Flight Center’s Materials and Processes Laboratory.

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