NASA’s Space Launch System Using 3D-printed rocket parts
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. is using a method called selective laser melting, or SLM, to create intricate metal parts for America’s next heavy-lift rocket. Using this state-of-the-art technique will benefit the agency by saving millions in manufacturing costs.
NASA is building the Space Launch System or SLS — a rocket managed at the Marshall Center and designed to take humans, equipment and experiments beyond low Earth orbit to nearby asteroids and eventually to Mars.
SLM is similar to 3-D printing and is the future of manufacturing.
“Basically, this machine takes metal powder and uses a high-energy laser to melt it in a designed pattern,” says Ken Cooper, advanced manufacturing team lead at the Marshall Center. “The laser will layer the melted dust to fuse whatever part we need from the ground up, creating intricate designs. The process produces parts with complex geometries and precise mechanical properties from a three-dimensional computer-aided design.”
There are two major benefits to this process, which are major considerations for the Space Launch System Program: savings and safety.