The completely 3D-printed combustion chamber, designed by ArianeGroup in Germany, was successfully fire tested 14 times between 26 May and 2 June, 2020 on the P8 test bench of the DLR German Aerospace Center’s Lampoldshausen testing facility.
These tests were conducted jointly by ArianeGroup and DLR and follow on from the hot fire test campaign carried out last year, which validated 14 technological building blocks for future liquid propellant rocket engines. The results obtained represent a key step in the preparations for the future development of very-low-cost rocket engines.
This 3D-printed combustion chamber was manufactured and tested under the European Space Agency (ESA) Expander-Cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator (ETID) project, part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme. It is a full-scale demonstrator for a launcher upper stage engine. This demonstrator incorporates the very latest propulsion technologies and is designed to validate innovative manufacturing technologies, materials and processes, such as 3D printing (by laser fusion and projection), laser ignition, and the use of low-cost materials.
This combustion chamber features numerous innovations, such as the low-cost copper alloy cooling channels and an outer jacket made by “cold gas” spraying. Also, the combustion chamber includes a single-piece injection head produced by laser fusion 3D printing using all the injectors. This is an ideal solution for significantly reducing engines construction times and production costs in the future.
3D printing will be adopted across the board going forward for all ArianeGroup liquid propellant engines, for both upper stage engines (ETID) and high-thrust main stage engines (Prometheus). The work on ETID and Prometheus is being carried out under ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). This program aims to enhance the competitiveness of future European launchers by creating mature technical solutions that are ready for rapid deployment, developing products with lower cost, effort, and risk.
These programs enable ArianeGroup – which manages the entire parts value chain from design to manufacturing – to develop its expertise in the field of 3D printing for launcher propulsion systems, a technology which is revolutionizing the design and production of future rocket engines.
ArianeGroup already uses 3D printing to manufacture many components for Ariane 6 engines. Apart from significantly reducing costs and shortening production cycles, the use of 3D printing has made it possible to integrate the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) into Ariane 6, thus increasing the launcher’s unrivalled ability to adapt to the needs of different missions.
ArianeGroup’s key advantages are its machines of the highest standard at the company’s Vernon (France) and Ottobrunn (Germany) sites, and the ability to draw on the expertise of local companies at the cutting edge of 3D printing, with the Normandy-based Volum-e company, and in Germany, with AMCM in Starnberg and Impact Innovations in Rattenkirchen