Aerospace AMDefenseIndustrial Additive Manufacturing

Aerojet Rocketdyne selected by DoD to 3D print hypersonic engines

The L3Harris company was awarded $22 million to develop "Powder-In, Engine-Out" propulsion for the GAMMA-H challenge

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Aerojet Rocketdyne, an L3Harris Technologies company, has been awarded a $22 million Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) contract from the Department of Defense (DoD) Manufacturing Technology Program, through Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, to develop a prototype solution for the GAMMA-H (Growing Additive Manufacturing Maturity for Airbreathing Hypersonics) challenge.

Launched in 2022, the GAMMA-H program is part of the DoD’s ongoing efforts to expand current processes to manufacture hypersonic weapons components.

Aerojet Rockedyne, part of L3Harris, was selected by DoD to 3D print hypersonic engines for the GAMMA-H challenge According to the DoD, GAMMA-H will contribute toward advancing additive manufacturing processes that can affordably meet the propulsion performance and environmental requirements that modern hypersonic airbreathing systems demand.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne will consolidate several essential steps of the end-to-end scramjet manufacturing process under the GAMMA-H contract, which will provide schedule and cost efficiencies associated with a less fragmented supply chain,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne president Ross Niebergall. “Optimizing processes will increase part yields and reduce the number of processing steps, resulting in higher production velocity and lower cost.”

More than a decade after making hypersonic history with the X-51 Waverider, Aerojet Rocketdyne has continued to evolve advanced hypersonic propulsion through numerous successful test flights supporting the nation’s need for faster, more maneuverable missile systems.

Currently, traditional manufacturing processes are unable to meet the intricate geometric specifications that advanced hypersonics require. GAMMA-H contributes towards advancing additive manufacturing processes that can meet the propulsion and temperature requirements that modern hypersonic airbreathing systems demand.

“We need to be pushing the envelope with materials produced using the additive manufacturing process” stated Keith DeVries, Deputy Director of the OSD Manufacturing Technology Program (ManTech). “The science has proven it’s possible, but the practice is not widespread enough. GAMMA-H will encourage further adoptions of this groundbreaking technology,” he said.

The objective of GAMMA-H is not only to decrease the number of individual parts that need inspection, shipment, and construction through additive manufacturing but also to give small businesses and non-traditional defense contractors opportunities to engage in defense manufacturing.

“GAMMA-H solutions will bring significant improvements to how we apply additive manufacturing to airbreathing hypersonics. This will only be achieved through the partnership of large companies, small businesses, and academia,” noted DeVries. He added, “We are very interested in expanding our roster of partners — of all sizes — that are contributing to the hypersonic mission.”

The GAMMA-H Request For Solutions (RFS) was originally released in October 2022. Supported by the Fabricators and Manufacturers’ Association (FMA) along with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Manufacturing Month is a national effort to promote manufacturing practices and processes, as well as to highlight efforts across the nation to train the workforce needed to support domestic manufacturing.

“National Manufacturing Month gives a voice to the national manufacturing base and encourages the small and medium manufacturing base to engage in all advanced manufacturing practices,” stated DeVries. “By tapping into the innovations of our advanced manufacturing base, the DoD will be better positioned to solve the hypersonics airbreathing maturation challenge.”

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