HRL Receives NASA Award to 3D Print Ceramic Rocket Engine Components

HRL Laboratories, LLC, has received an award as part of NASA’s Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion program to develop additive manufactured (3D-printed) ceramic rocket engine components.

© Vector Space Systems

HRL achieved a scientific breakthrough with preceramic resins that can be 3D printed and converted to high-temperature ceramic that was first published in the journal Science on January 1, 2016.

With NASA support, HRL researchers will further develop this new technology to additively manufacture reinforced ceramic rocket propulsion components. The HRL technique combines the ease, flexibility, and low cost of polymer additive manufacturing with the high-temperature capabilities of ceramics. This will enable new designs, lower costs and reduced lead time.

“High-temperature ceramics are notoriously difficult to process with conventional methods,” said Tobias Schaedler, the project’s program manager. “3D printing could completely change what ceramic parts look like and where they are applied in rocket engines.”

HRL will subcontract with Vector, a micro satellite launch company that  will investigate innovative rocket engine designs and assess performance improvements to its line of launch vehicles enabled by additive manufacturing.

The two-year program will culminate with hot-fire ground testing of rocket engines that contain 3D-printed heat-resistant components at Vector’s facility.

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HRL Laboratories, LLC, Malibu, California (hrl.com) is a corporate research-and-development laboratory owned by The Boeing Company and General Motors specializing in research into sensors and materials, information and systems sciences, applied electromagnetics, and microelectronics. HRL provides custom research and development and performs additional R&D contract services for its LLC member companies, the U.S. government, and other commercial companies.

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