Northrop Grumman authorised to use Additive Manufacturing for Hypersonic components

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  • Northrop Grumman will use additive manufacturing to create advanced hypersonic test facility components and test articles.
Northrop Grumman authorised to use Additive Manufacturing for Hypersonic components
A B-52H Stratofortress successfully conducted a hypersonic missile test this month/Source: Air Force Test Center

Northrop Grumman Corp., an American multinational aerospace and defence technology company, has been authorised by US Air Force hypersonics experts to use additive manufacturing for hypersonic test component fabrication that will be used for missiles and aircraft.

Air Force Test Centre officials at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., announced last week a potential $9.8 million five-year contract to the Northrop Grumman Propulsion Systems & Controls segment in Elkton, Md., for the Additive Manufacturing to Improve Test and Evaluation of Hypersonic Vehicles project.

Additive manufacturing for Hypersonic test components

Northrop Grumman Corporation, with 90,000 employees and a revenue of more than $30 billion, is one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers and military technology providers.

It will use additive manufacturing for hypersonic test items under the new contract. It will primarily be responsible for the development of advanced hypersonic test facility components and test articles for the Hypersonic Aerothermal and Propulsion Clean-Air Testbed (HAPCAT) facility in Ronkonkoma, New York.

The HAPCAT facility generates harsh conditions, such as high temperatures and pressures, to simulate the environment that a hypersonic vehicle will encounter in flight, and the additively manufactured items should be able to withstand such conditions. Active cooling methods, such as internal water passages, are also required to manage the thermal loading of hypersonic vehicle test components.

The HAPCAT additive manufacturing capability would also support testing at other US military facilities that generate harsh conditions, such as the J-5 clean-air facility at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.; the arc heater facilities at NASA Ames Research Centre in Mountain View, Calif.; and the Aerodynamic and Propulsion Test Unit (APTU) at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn.

Additionally, Northrop Grumman will use additive manufacturing to fabricate and repair facility components and test articles. Experts in the Air Force want Northrop Grumman to develop and demonstrate 3D printing and additive manufacturing capabilities for HAPCAT and other military hypersonic facilities.

According to Air Force officials, the additive manufacturing capability will reduce manufacturing times, increase facility availability, and improve support for military hypersonic weapon system ground testing.

Northrop Grumman will perform the work under this contract in Ronkonkoma, New York, and it is expected to be completed by May 2028.

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