Thrusters with Additively Manufactured Components Qualified to Fly Humans on NASA’s Orion Spacecraft
- Successfully tested reaction control thruster system for NASA’s Orion crew vehicle, which will enable the module to safely re-enter Earth’s atmosphere
- Engine nozzle extensions were 3-D printed, marking one of the first times in history that a spacecraft carrying humans will incorporate additively manufactured parts
- In addition to the reaction control thruster system,
Aerojet Rocketdyneis supplying the Space Launch System’s main- and upper-stage liquid engines and jettison motor
The reaction control system, or RCS, is the only means of guiding the Orion crew module after it separates from its service module in preparation for atmospheric re-entry and subsequent splashdown. Consisting of 12 MR-104G hydrazine thrusters capable of 160 pounds of thrust each, the system also will ensure that the spacecraft is properly oriented (with its heat shield pointed downward) for re-entry, and stable during descent.
“Additive manufacturing eliminates traditional design constraints, as well as reduces manufacturing times,” said
During the yearlong qualification test program at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s
“Following our rigorous qualification testing program, we’re confident that this enhanced RCS system is ready to fly,” added Drake. “The reaction control thrusters are critical to the Orion capsule’s safe return to Earth at the completion of EM-1 as well as future crewed missions.”
The EM-1 RCS thruster design builds on the flight proven engine demonstrated on the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission in 2014. The enhanced system features a stronger structure, increased resistance to thermal stresses and reduced mass. The improved manufacturing process updated the system to account for changed loads and to ultimately increase affordability.
On EM-1 an uncrewed Orion spacecraft will launch into a distant retrograde orbit around the Moon before returning to Earth for a splashdown in the
In addition to the RCS,
Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne, Inc.