The new rocket engine nozzle is based on Volvo Aero's patented “sandwich technology” wherein advanced welding techniques create a sandwich structure by welding together two sheet metal cones, one of which has cooling channels milled into it.
The new nozzle has been manufactured with the use of several unique methods, X-ray controlled laser welding equipment that locates hidden weld seams and then welds with surgical precision. A second unique method used is the ultrasonically controlled milling of the cooling channels. Furthermore, load carrying areas and stiffeners have been built up directly on the nozzle surface through a process were a high power laser fuses small particles of material into a desired form – known as metal deposition. Conventional techniques used previously would have involved separately manufactured components being welded onto the nozzle, leading to longer production times and higher costs.
This development has taken place in cooperation with the Swedish National Space Board (SNSB), the French Space Agency (CNES), Snecma and Astrium. The rocket engine nozzle was tested as part of the European Space Agency's ARTA program at the German Aerospace Center’s (DLR) facility in Lampholdhausen where it delivered 700 seconds of tremendous power – all according to plan. This is about the length of time a rocket needs in order to achieve orbit velocity.
The test was an important success for Volvo Aero's light weight technology in which manufacturing methods are a significant factor.
“The new technologies make it possible for Volvo Aero to supply the Rocket engine / Launcher market in the long term with nozzles that are both less expensive and have a potential to increase performance. It also uses fewer components which means a more robust product compared to conventional nozzles”, says project leader Roland Rydén.
For instance the increase in performance allows around 100 kg of additional payload in an Ariane 5 rocket.
The new nozzle technology is planned to be used on future European rockets. Volvo Aero is one of the companies selected to participate in the European project FLPP (Future Launchers Preparatory Program).
In passing this test, Volvo Aero’s development work has attained what is classified in the industry as Technology Readiness Level TRL6.
Images of the nozzle can be found in the Image gallery under News Images.