Virgin Orbit air launches rockets carrying small satellites to space. The company partnered with NASA experts in combustion and additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama; Glenn Research Center in Cleveland; and Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Their goal: to create a 3D printed combustion chamber that combines multiple materials and takes advantage of cutting-edge manufacturing processes.
The effort incorporates a proven NASA additive copper alloy, GRCop-84, which was developed at Marshall and Glenn in 2014 to successfully print and test the first full-scale 3D printed copper rocket engine part. To further strengthen this new engine thrust chamber, Virgin Orbit used its own hybrid additive/subtractive machine to apply a second bimetallic super-alloy jacket and precisely machine the part.
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