NASA is testing a new 3D printed rocket for trips to Mars. I’m watching

Image: NASA/Revelation

NASA has released a video showing a test run on a new type of 3D-printed rocket engine. The new technology could be used in the future for deep space travel, using less fuel than traditional rockets.

Since the beginning of space exploration, the structure of a rocket engine has not changed much. Most of them consist of a combustion chamber, where the fuel is ignited and the gases are expelled in a certain direction, creating the famous phenomenon of “action and reaction”, predicted by Newton’s 3rd Law.

NASA’s new engine – named RDRE (which stands for “Revolving Detonation Rocket Engine”) – was first proposed in the 1950s, but remained only in theory for decades. Only now have the agency’s engineers managed to build a full-scale working engine.

The project consists of using concentric circles to produce chemical reactions that create timed explosions. These explosions cause steady pulses of supersonic gas through a nozzle, thus creating thrust for the rocket.

An advantage of this new system is that it does not need oxygen to produce combustion – as in today’s engines – which helps make the rocket lighter, cheaper and more efficient.

During the RDRE test, NASA was able to fire the engine a dozen more times over a period of nearly 10 minutes. It was able to consistently produce 4,000 pounds of thrust for nearly a minute.

The video of the test can be seen below:

The new engine is made of copper alloy (GRCop-42) and produced through the additive manufacturing process (better known as “3D printing”), withstanding extreme heat and pressure conditions for longer periods of time without overheating. The test also validated the internal ignition and throttle systems.

“This successful demonstration brings the technology closer to use with future flight vehicles, allowing NASA and commercial space to carry more payload and mass to deep space destinations, essential to making space exploration more sustainable.” NASA said in a statement.

Other groups are also testing this technology, including the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), private companies such as Venus Aerospace, and the US Air Force.

According to NASA, this engine could be used to propel robotic or manned spacecraft for missions to the Moon or Mars. The next step of the project is to build a fully reusable RDRE that will also be able to generate more momentum.

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