GKN Reduces Components on Rocket Nozzle with the Help of AM

Laser welding and laser metal deposition helped reduce the number of component parts on the nozzle by 90 percent, according to the company.

GKN Aerospace has delivered the first nozzle for the Vulcain 2.1 engine to Airbus Safran Launchers in France, which is to be used in the Ariane 6 rocket. The nozzle, which measures 2.5 m in diameter, is designed for higher performance, lower lead times and cost reduction. The company says that large-scale use of laser welding and laser metal deposition for key structural features enabled a 90 percent reduction of component parts, taking it down from approximately 1,000 parts to 100 parts. 
 
A demonstrator nozzle has already been successfully trialed in a full-scale engine nozzle test as part of the European Space Agency’s Ariane Research and Technology Accompaniment program. Now the flight configuration nozzle will be mounted to the Vulcain 2.1 engine in France for a test in Germany. 
 
GKN Aerospace will manufacture the nozzle in a new automated manufacturing center in its facility in Trollhättan, Sweden, which is scheduled to open in 2018. 
 
In total, GKN Aerospace will provide five complex subsystems for each Ariane 6 rocket, including four turbine assemblies for the two engines, generating power for the hydrogen and oxygen fuel systems.
 
The Ariane 6 is scheduled to enter service in 2020. Airbus Safran Launchers is the prime contractor and GKN’s customer in this development program funded by the European Space Agency.