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NASA conducts successful test of 3D-printed engine for deep space missions

NASA tests new 3D-printed rocket engine to navigate on moon; the engine can produce more power with less fuel

NASA 3D-printed engine

NASA’s propulsion development engineers have developed and tested NASA’s first full-scale rotating detonation rocket engine–RDRE. This cutting-edge rocket engine design could significantly alter how future propulsion systems are constructed as NASA takes its first steps toward establishing a long-term presence on the Moon’s surface.

A new engine being tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville is now receiving national attention as a development breakthrough. According to the experts at Marshall, the “rotating detonation rocket engine” or RDRE produces thrust through “a supersonic combustion phenomenon known as a detonation.”

At Marshall’s East Test Area, test fires have been taking place since late 2022; The engine was recently tested there more than a dozen times for nearly ten minutes. IN Space LLC, based in West Lafayette, Indiana, is NASA’s partner in the engine’s development.

The engine has been created using additive manufacturing or 3D printing and can operate for extended periods of time under extreme pressure and heat; one of its past primary tests. At the highest pressure ever achieved by the design, the engine ran at full throttle for nearly a minute and produced more than 4,000 pounds of thrust.

According to NASA, the engine’s internal ignition and throttle systems functioned properly, marking additional development milestones. NASA stated, “This successful demonstration brings the technology closer to being used with future flight vehicles. It enables NASA and commercial space to move more payload and mass to deep space destinations, which is essential for making space exploration more sustainable.”

The work is already attracting the attention of well-known space authors like Eric Berger, a proponent of novel strategies for space exploration, and brand-new space companies like SpaceX.

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