ArianeGroup, headquartered in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris, France, reports that it has successfully tested its first entirely additively manufactured combustion chamber.
Formerly Airbus Safran Launchers, ArianeGroup is a joint venture of the European aerospace company Airbus and the French group Safran. It consists of three core businesses which include aerospace (orbital propulsion systems and equipment), defence and security.
The additively manufactured combustion chamber, designed by ArianeGroup in Germany, was reportedly successfully fire tested fourteen times between May 26–June 2, on the P8 test bench of the DLR German Aerospace Center’s Lampoldshausen testing facility.
The tests were conducted jointly by ArianeGroup and DLR and follow on from the hot fire test campaign conducted last year, which validated fourteen technological building blocks for future liquid propellant rocket engines. The results are believed to represent a key step in the preparations for the future development of very-low-cost rocket engines.
The additively manufactured combustion chamber was produced and tested under ESA’s Expander-Cycle Technology Integrated Demonstrator (ETID) project, part of ESA’s Future Launchers Preparatory Programme (FLPP). It is a full-scale demonstrator for a launcher upper stage engine, which incorporates the latest propulsion technologies and is designed to validate innovative manufacturing technologies, materials and processes, such as AM, laser ignition, and the use of low-cost materials.
The combustion chamber features numerous innovations, such as low-cost copper alloy cooling channels and an outer jacket made by cold gas spraying. Additionally, the combustion chamber includes a single-piece injection head produced by Laser Beam Powder Bed Fusion (LB-PBF).
According to ArianeGroup, Additive Manufacturing will be adopted across the board going forward for all ArianeGroup liquid-propellant engines, for both upper stage engines (ETID) and high-thrust mainstage engines (Prometheus). The work on ETID and Prometheus is being carried out under ESA’s FLPP which aims to enhance the competitiveness of future European launchers by creating mature technical solutions that are ready for rapid deployment, developing products with lower cost, effort, and risk.
The company says that these programmes enable ArianeGroup to develop its expertise in the field of AM for launcher propulsion systems, a technology which is reportedly revolutionising the design and production of future rocket engines.
ArianeGroup already uses Additive Manufacturing to produce components for Ariane 6 engines, and apart from significantly reducing costs and shortening production cycles, the use of AM has reportedly made it possible to integrate the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) into Ariane 6, increasing the launcher’s ability to adapt to the needs of different missions.