NASA’s RDRE rocket engine manufactured by 3D printing succeeds in trial run

On January 26, 2023, NASA announced that it had successfully completed a combustion test of the RDRE (Rotating Detonation Rocket Engine), a rocket engine that uses a rotating detonation combustion method.

RDRE uses a supersonic combustion phenomenon called “detonation” that differs from conventional rocket engines. It is possible to obtain a large output with a smaller amount of fuel than existing technology, and it is expected to be used as a power source for manned landers that travel to deep space such as the moon and Mars, and interplanetary transport ships.

NASA’s 2022 RDRE high-temperature burn test at the Marshall Space Flight Center lasted nearly a dozen times, totaling nearly 10 minutes. The main result is that the parts manufactured by 3D printing technology “additive manufacturing” which laminates metal materials can withstand burning for a long time.

During the test, it produced over 4000 pounds (17.8 kN) of thrust at full throttle for nearly a minute, with an average chamber pressure of 622 pounds per square inch (4.3 N/mm 2 ) during that time . This pressure is a record high for an engine of this design.

In addition, we confirmed the success of deep throttling and internal ignition, which are engine control technologies, and approached practical use. This will allow NASA and commercial space agencies to carry more payloads to deep space destinations.

Following the successful test, NASA is considering developing a fully reusable 10,000-pound thrust (44.5 kN) class RDRE engine to prove its superiority over conventional rocket engines.

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