The combustion chamber of the M10 oxygen-methane engine, which will equip the future evolution of the Vega launch vehicle, has passed its test firings carried out in recent weeks. This represents the first Italian combustion chamber created entirely using Additive Manufacturing. ZARE, as an industrial technological partner, has contributed to the development and production of one of the critical components that have made it possible to achieve this ambitious result: the injector plate.
Vega, Vettore Europeo di Generazione Avanzata (Advanced Generation European Carrier Rocket), is a launch vehicle born from the collaboration between the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the European Space Agency (ESA) for the launch of small satellites into orbit.
The combustion chamber of the M10 oxygen-methane engine, which will equip Vega's future evolution starting from 2025, has successfully passed the test campaign in recent weeks at the historic NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. These represent crucial tests for the development of the launch vehicle: the tests actually aim to verify, among others, the functional performance of the combustor in its operational and qualification domain, and its life during repetitive hot cycles.
The tests of the combustion chamber of the M10 engine are the first tangible and significant result of the effort that Italy has been making in natural gas propulsion technology for launchers for over 15 years, with research and technological development activities financed initially nationally by the ASI. We immediately believed in this innovation, and our efforts have allowed us to garner the interest of many European countries, making this project a common European objective with Italian leadership, as evidenced by the huge participation in the Vega Evolution programme by the ESA, which began in 2016 and was strongly supported at the recent 2019 Ministerial Council.
-- Giorgio Saccoccia, president of the ASI
Made by a team of European enterprises led by Italy, the M10 presents the first combustion chamber made using Additive Manufacturing, a technology chosen with a view to optimising costs and times, also aimed at ensuring greater flexibility and versatility.
Not only that, Additive Manufacturing
has made it possible to create this very complex component in just 2 parts, to be then joined with a single welding process, instead of the traditional technology that calls for dozens of different parts being made followed by hour upon hour of welding and mechanical processes.
For this particular application, made entirely using Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, a Nickel superalloy was used, characterised by a high resistance to wear and breakage and high thermal resistance.
Developed by Avio, which focuses on the space launchers and adapters of the Vega Launch System, the M10 will improve propulsion efficiency and environmental sustainability by reducing emissions and combustion waste, thus increasing the competitiveness of small European launchers and reducing their costs. As a matter of fact, the launcher has been designed to position multiple satellites in different orbits during a single mission.
We are certainly proud to have been chosen by Avio for the development and production of the critical parts that have contributed to the success of such an ambitious project. Zare and members of the Additive Team extend a heartfelt thanks to those helping to thrust Italy to the forefront of aerospace innovation.