Orbital ATK tests 3D-printed hypersonic engine combustor

By Ryan Maass  |  Jan. 19, 2016 at 10:25 AM
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DULLES, Va., Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Orbital ATK has announced a successful test of a 3D-printed hypersonic engine combustor at NASA Langley Research Center.

The combustor tested was produced through an additive manufacturing process known as powder bed fusion, which either a laser or electron beam to meld and fuse material powders together. Tests included exposure to a variety of high-temperature hypersonic flight conditions during a 20-day period, which included one of the longest recorded duration propulsion wind tunnel tests.

Researchers involved say the unit met or exceeded test requirements. The tests were performed to verify a powder bed fusion-produced part could meet mission objectives.

"Additive manufacturing opens up new possibilities for our designers and engineers," Orbital ATK Missile Products general manager Pat Nolan said in a statement. "This combustor is a great example of a component that was impossible to build just a few years ago."

The test comes as Orbital ATK and its industry partners continue to explore new manufacturing methods, including powder bed fusion. The use of additive manufacturing is part of an effort to move away from complex geometries and assemblies requiring multiple components.

"This successful test will encourage our engineers to continue to explore new designs and use these innovative tools to lower costs and decrease manufacturing time," Nolan added.

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