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ESA investigates 3D parts for In-Space Satellite Engines.

In collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA), 3D Systems uses Direct Metal Printing (DMP) with its Customer Innovation Center to produce injectors, combustion chambers and expansion nozzles for a bi-propellant communication satellite.

ESA and 3D Systems specialists rely on DMP’s design advantages: reducing weight, simplifying assembly, faster manufacturing and late-stage design adaptation support, to help them engineer functional separate design alternatives for satellite engine parts. The collaboration with ESA is part of 3D Systems’ strategy to offer its unique know-how in support of space and aerospace manufacturing excellence.

Propellant flow from the valve to the combustion chamber
Innovative DMP manifolding allows optimized propellant flow from the valve to the combustion chamber.

The Technology Behind Innovative Injector Manifolding.

With the design freedom DMP offers, ESA can reduce the number of injector assembly parts to one instead of the five parts created using conventional manufacturing. This reduces cost and the risk of creating the sealing welds required to achieve reliable hydraulic injection operation. By acquiring full control over the AM production process, 3D Systems achieves a comparable micro structure with a relative density of up to 99.98%, for an increased number of metals and alloys, including titanium.

Additionally, with volumetric density as low as 12%, DMP can reduce combustion chamber weight and improve structural safety margins.

Combustion chamber existing design

Separating combustion chamber functions between operational and non-operational load cases translates into strut-work ribs supporting the thin wall.

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3D Systems and Intricate Design.

ESA engineers also turned to 3D Systems’ DMP printers to manufacture an expansion nozzle with an exit diameter close to 50 centimeters. Our line of metal printers makes it possible to create products with intricate design geometry that fit in a 275 x 275 x 450-millimeter box. And we did it using titanium, which meets the mechanical and thermal requirements for expansion nozzles and without limiting performance.

New engine combustion chamber design
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Expansion nozzle
DMP increases design flexibility compared to traditional spin forming sheet metal, so engine performance can be tuned towards customer-specific thrust profiles.
Expansion nozzle with exit diameter close to 50 centimeters
The expansion nozzle with an exit diameter close to 50 centimeters.