The goal of the proposed effort is to use selective laser melting (SLM, an additive manufacturing technique) to manufacture a hot fire-capable, water-cooled spool piece that features an advanced regenerative cooling technique that combines high heat flux performance with low pressure drop. SLM enables us to "print" the spool piece in days, despite the complexity of the regenerative liner's inherent flow passage complexity. This reduction in manufacturing lead time, combined with the fact that SLM manufacturing costs are driven in large part by the amount of raw powder used during fabrication, results in a substantial cost reduction for future regeneratively-cooled rocket engines. Additionally, the proposed advanced regenerative cooling approach features a heat-pickup efficiency that is at least two orders of magnitude higher than traditional milled channel liners and/or brazed tube bundle chambers. As a result of our Phase I activity and confidence in our commercialization path, we will be making a capital investment to stand up an SLM manufacturing capability in house. We plan to augment that investment with an internally-funded trade study that we will use to derive main combustion chamber performance requirements for a future expander cycle engine. Those requirements will feed into Phase II design requirements and, ultimately, to supporting our commercialization opportunity presented by the Affordable Upper Stage Engine Program.More »
The Affordable Upper Stage Enginer (AUSE) is our primary NASA application. The upper stage engine, which will replace the RL10, will benefit from our SLM-manufactured MCC in three ways. First, SLM is known to reduce the cost of component manufacture by 50-70%, which will help satisfy affordability requirements. Second, the pressure drop penalty incurred by using our advanced cooling approach is reduced by about an order of magnitude over current state of the art, which will reduce turbompump requirements, which will also contribute to lower cost. Third, our approach provides a dramatic increase in heat flux to the regenerative propellant, which will enable an increase in expander cycle engine performance, by increasing its potential for doing work across the turbine. The Space Launch System (SLS) Program is another opportunity, particularly since the core stage will use the RS-25 engine, a staged combustion cycle that will likewise benefit from reductions in cooling jacket pressure drop. The Altair ascent and descent engines would also both benefit from our technology.
We are already actively pursuing a non-NASA opportunity with the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which is forced to fly very expensive foreign missile systems as targets for interept missions. Today, these targets cost about $40M per mission. We have identified a low cost target that we can upgrade with a version of our SLM-manufactured advanced combustion chamber that will improve the range of that target, such that it can be used instead of the expensive foreign systems. If we are successful with the design, development and testing, MDA could fly our targets and save a massive $39M per intercept test.
|Organizations Performing Work
|Analytical Services, Inc. (ASI)
Minority-Owned Business, Small Disadvantaged Business (SDB)
|Glenn Research Center (GRC)