GKN Aerospace to additively manufacture two full-scale rocket engine turbines
The first part is to be delivered by the end of 2019.
British automotive and aerospace components manufacturer GKN, recently landed a contract to develop and additively manufacture two full-scale rocket engine turbines, with the first part to be delivered by the end of 2019.
The contract is on behalf of the ArianeGroup, a joint venture between European aerospace company Airbus and French manufacturer Safran. The two turbines are for the Prometheus, a low-cost reusable rocket engine utilizing liquid oxygen and methane propellants for fuel. The turbines will generate power for the methane fuel system, and manufacturing will take place in cooperation with partners and at GKN Aerospace ’s engine systems centre of in Trollhättan, Sweden.
“With the support of the Swedish National Space Agency, ESA and ArianeGroup we are proud to participate in the Prometheus project and to make a technological contribution to this key European space project,” says Sébastien Aknouche Vice President and General Manager, Services and Special Products Engine Systems. “This allows us to develop and demonstrate advanced AM technologies in operation and at full scale.”
The turbine is being created with various challenges in mind including the ability to withstand very high pressure, high speed and high temperatures. According to GKN creating these parts using an AM process (the details of which they weren’t willing to disclose at this time) has led to a 90 per cent cost reduction. This AM development will support the use of this technology for future higher loaded critical components in terms of pressure, temperature and rotational speed.
As an engine demonstrator, Prometheus includes a computer system enabling real-time adjustment and immediate diagnosis for potential reusability. In terms of methane, the propellant brings high-efficiency standards and operational simplicity, making it a perfect candidate for a reusable booster engine demonstration.
The Prometheus contract is worth €75 million (roughly $85 million USD).