The German Space Agency plans to use 3D printing technology to manufacture space hardware at a reduced cost, according to an article on 3DPrinting.com.

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Germany’s space agency (DLR) is ramping up efforts to make space exploration more affordable by focusing on advanced 3D printing of propulsion systems. The 3D Printing for Low-Cost Space Components (3D-LoCoS) project is a collaborative initiative aimed at cost-effective production of technology demonstrators for space components. To achieve this, teams from various DLR institutes are working on enhancing the Laser Powder Bed Fusion (LPBF) additive manufacturing process to reduce hardware costs.

The project’s standout achievement so far is the creation of a combustion chamber specifically designed for LPBF printing, harnessing the power of artificial intelligence for the design and testing phases. The combustion chamber is made of a copper-chromium-zirconium blend known for its exceptional thermal properties. Hot-fire tests have already proven the chamber’s performance, highlighting its potential for industrial integration. Impressively, the chamber can generate 25 kilonewtons of thrust, making it a significant breakthrough for the space industry.

Dmitry Suslov from the DLR Institute of Space Propulsion expressed his excitement about the project’s progress, stating, “We have designed and developed a combustion chamber with a special regenerative cooling concept specifically for the additive LPBF manufacturing process.” He went on to say, “With six hot-fire tests, we were able to show the great potential of this new fabrication method and the functionality of the 3D-printed combustion chamber.”

DLR’s experimentation with the combustion chamber is setting new standards in chamber design, ensuring critical demands such as gas impermeability and precision are met. Through rigorous testing, the agency has successfully constructed over 60cm-long chambers as single units using its unique fabrication system. With the positive outcomes achieved so far, DLR plans to apply its new production method and enhanced quality to other industrial applications in the near future.

The agency is also keen to engage with the public and receive feedback. They encourage everyone to share their thoughts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up for their weekly additive manufacturing newsletter to stay updated with the latest developments in this field. With the cost of space exploration potentially becoming more affordable, the future of space technology looks promising.

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