Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes Critical Design Review for AR1 Engine with 3D Printed Rocket Engine Injectors

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In early 2016, rocket and missile propulsion manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne was the recipient of a $6 million contract from the US Air Force to define 3D printed rocket engine component standards. The standards will be used to qualify the 3D printed components used in liquid-fueled rocket engine applications, in order to follow through with a mandate set down by US Congress: that the Department of Defense will stop using Russian-made RD-180 engines to launch US satellites and national security payloads into space and begin using domestically produced options instead. Shortly after, Aerojet signed its own contract with Sigma Labs, to non-exclusively license its PrintRite 3D software system to evaluate and redefine the 3D printed components used in Air Force manufacturing.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne AR1 Booster Engine can be configured as a single engine or a twin booster.

Aerojet, a renowned aerospace and defense leader, was certainly the right company for the Air Force contract, having successfully completed hot-fire testing of the 3D printed rocket engine injectors for its liquid-fueled AR1 booster rocket engine in 2015; selective laser melting was used to manufacture the components. We’ve learned that Aerojet has also successfully completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) for the 500,000 foot-pound thrust-class AR1 engine. This achievement will keep the AR1 on track for flight certification in 2019, as a replacement for the Russian RD-180 engine. 22 incremental CDRs came before the recent system-level CDR, along with full-scale testing of critical subsystem components, like the staged combustion system.

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake explained, “This important milestone keeps AR1 squarely on track for flight readiness in 2019. AR1 ends foreign dependence, fits on existing launch vehicles with the least amount of changes to the system or on new launch vehicles in development, and is compatible with current ground and launch infrastructure.”

An Atlas V rocket readied for launch.

The AR1 was was designed to integrate with the Atlas V launch vehicle, and is the lowest-risk and quickest path to getting rid of US dependence on foreign suppliers, like Russia’s RD-180. It is also the choice with the lowest cost to American taxpayers, and the AR1 could be a versatile propulsion system for multiple current and future launch vehicle applications.

“Using our proven development methodology that has been honed during decades of designing booster engines such as the RS-68 and RS-25, Aerojet Rocketdyne will have an engine certified and ready for production in 2019. Aerojet Rocketdyne understands the exacting engine development and launch vehicle integration processes required for National Security Space missions. We have the resources and capabilities in-place to support national security launches using the AR1 as the booster engine starting in 2020,” said Julie Van Kleeck, vice president of Advanced Space and Launch Programs and Safety.

AR1 engine on track for certification in 2019

The comprehensive CDR was attended by industry and government experts, who are independent of the program. They looked at and assessed the program’s readiness, and affirmed that Aerojet’s technical efforts are on the right track to certification in 2019. The CDR validated the AR1 production processes which will be used to produce the flight engines; it also focused on the design of the AR1, in order to be certain that it meets the exacting performance requirements of a booster engine before full manufacturing processes get underway.

Drake said, “Completing the CDR is a significant milestone for the AR1 program. It means that we have finalized our design and confirmed that it meets the diverse set of operational requirements necessary for national security missions. Leading up to CDR, we manufactured major components at subscale and full-scale dimensions and completed hundreds of tests to confirm that we are ready to build our first engine for qualification and certification.”

Following the completion of the CDR, verifications have been established, and over 200 engine system-level design requirements have been set up. Discuss in the Aerojet Rocketdyne forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne]

 

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