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02:44 PM, January 19, 2016
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Orbital ATK has successfully tested a 3D-printed hypersonic engine combustor at NASA Langley Research Center.

The combustor, produced through an additive manufacturing process known as powder bed fusion (PBF), was subjected to a variety of high-temperature hypersonic flight conditions over the course of 20 days, including one of the longest duration propulsion wind tunnel tests ever recorded for a unit of this kind. Analysis confirms the unit met or exceeded all of the test requirements, the company said in a statement Monday.

One of the most challenging parts of the propulsion system, a scramjet combustor, houses and maintains stable combustion within an extremely volatile environment. The tests were, in part, to ensure that the PBF-produced part would be robust enough to meet mission objectives.

Complex geometries and assemblies that once required multiple components can be simplified to a single, more cost-effective assembly. However, since the components are built one layer at a time, it is now possible to design features and integrated components that could not be easily cast or otherwise machined.

PBF is one of several manufacturing methods currently being explored by Orbital ATK and its technology partners. Final assembly of the test combustor was completed at the company’s facilities in Ronkonkoma, New York, and Allegany Ballistics Laboratory in Rocket Center, West Virginia.

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