NASA’s dream of a 3D-printed rocket is getting closer and closer

nasas dream 3d printed rocket getting closer nasaaurora1
NASA
We’ve put plants, animals, and humans in space, and now we’re getting closer than ever to getting 3D-printed rocket engines out into the great beyond as well. Late last week, the team at NASA made progress on its goal of producing an entirely “3-D printed, high-performance rocket engine by manufacturing complex engine parts and test firing them together with cryogenic liquid hydrogen and oxygen to produce 20,000 pounds of thrust.” If that sounds like a mouthful, imagine actually making it.

NASA’s progress on the additive manufacturing front carries with it enormous implications for the future of space travel. The hope is that one day, a fully 3D-printed rocket could power travel to Mars and beyond, and more importantly, could do so for much less money. Already, NASA has successfully printed turbopumps, injectors, and valves, which comprise around three-quarters of the necessary components of a functional rocket engine. But their latest test involved assembling an engine with these parts, and found that the engine was capable of producing the thrust needed for a Mars lander. Moreover, it would be able to survive temperatures of 6,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

“By testing the turbopumps, injectors, and valves together, we’ve shown that it would be possible to build a 3D-printed engine for multiple purposes such as landers, in-space propulsion or rocket engine upper stages,” Elizabeth Robertson, project manager for the 3D-printed engine that was just tested in Huntsville, noted in a release.

The process has also been hugely educational for manufacturers, many of whom have never worked with, well, rocket scientists. “Vendors who had never worked with NASA learned how to make parts robust enough for rocket engines,” Robertson noted. “What we’ve learned through this project can now be shared with American companies and our partners.”

Speaking to the possibilities for the future, Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for space technology said, “NASA recognizes that on Earth and potentially in space, additive manufacturing can be game-changing for new mission opportunities, significantly reducing production time and cost by ‘printing’ tools, engine parts, or even entire spacecraft.”

So look alive 2016 — the space industry is coming in hot.

Emerging Tech

Yamaha’s new app lets you tune your motorcycle with a smartphone

It used to be that if you wanted to tune your motorcycle’s engine and tweak its performance, you needed specialized tools and even more specialized knowledge. Yamaha’s new Power Tuner app changes that.
Cars

Big tech, bigger grille: BMW updates its 7 Series flagship for 2020

The BMW 7 Series will enter the 2020 model year with a host of updates inside, outside, and under the sheet metal. The new-look nose with a jumbo grille hides updated engines, while passengers benefit from smart tech features.
Cars

The 2020 Lexus RC F goes on a diet to run faster and hit harder

The Lexus RC F has been one of the heavier cars in its competitive set since its introduction. The Japanese firm's engineers set out to shed weight as they gave the model a mid-cycle update.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers for 2019

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Emerging Tech

Lasers and bovine breathalyzer help determine how much methane cows produce

Cow farts and belches don't sound like catastrophic threats, but they contribute to the massive amounts of methane in the atmosphere. Recently, scientists set out to establish the numbers.
Emerging Tech

Researchers discover a way to make 3D printing 100 times faster using light

Researchers at the University of Michigan have invented a new method of 3D printing which is up to 100 times faster than conventional 3D-printing processes. Here's how it works and why it could prove a game-changer for 3D printing.
Emerging Tech

CES 2019 recap: All the trends, products, and gadgets you missed

CES 2019 didn’t just give us a taste of the future, it offered a five-course meal. From 8K and Micro LED televisions to smart toilets, the show delivered with all the amazing gadgetry you could ask for. Here’s a look at all the big…
Emerging Tech

Why wait? Here are some CES 2019 gadgets you can buy right now

Companies come to CES to wow us with their cutting edge technology, but only a few products are slated to hit the market right away. Here is our list of the best CES 2019 tech you can buy right now.
Emerging Tech

Drones: New rules could soon allow flights over people and at night

With commercial operators in mind, the U.S. government is looking to loosen restrictions on drone flights with a set of proposals that would allow the machines greater freedom to fly over populated areas and also at night.
Emerging Tech

Short film celebrates New Yorker’s amazing robot costumes

New York City resident Peter Kokis creates stunning robot costumes out of household trash. His designs are huge, heavy, and extremely intricate, and never fail to turn heads when he's out and about.
Emerging Tech

In a first for humankind, China is growing plants on the moon

Having recently landed a probe on the far side of the moon, China announced that it managed to grow the first plant on the moon, too. Here's why that matters for deep space travel.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s sweaty robot bottom can simulate 10 years of seat use in mere days

Ford has developed 'Robutt,' a sweaty robot bottom that's designed to simulate the effects of having a pair of human buttocks sitting on its car seats for thousands of hours. Check it out.
Emerging Tech

Want to know which drones are flying near you? There’s an app for that

Want to know what that mysterious drone buzzing over your head is up to? A new system developed by AirMap, Google Wing, and Kittyhawk.io could soon tell you -- via a map on your phone.
Emerging Tech

A Japanese hotel fires half its robot staff for being bad at their jobs

Japan’s oddball Henn na Hotel has fired half of its 243 robot staff. The reason? Because these labor-saving machines turned out to be causing way more problems than they were solving.