Following its announcement that it hopes to have 3D printers operating at the International Space Station within a year, NASA has run tests of the largest 3D printed rocket engine component created so far.
Wired and others report that the space agency has run tests on a fuel injector, which allows the mixing of hydrogen and liquid oxygen, created using the selective laser melting additive manufacturing technique applied to a nickel and chromium alloy powder.
The part was designed by NASA, created by Texas-based Directed MFG, and then put through its paces at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama.
"We took the design of an existing injector that we already tested and modified the design so the injector could be made with a 3-D printer," said Brad Bullard, a propulsion engineer, in a statement.
A similar injector would usually take 115 components, but the one created by SLM was made of two.
The part was able to withstand temperature of up to 3,300 degrees Celsius and pressures up to 1,400 pounds per square inch. The small engine was able to develop ten times the thrust of any other engine that had used a 3D printed component.
Tests will continue to be carried out to compare the performance of the new part to the one it was modelled on.