India makes breakthrough by test-firing new 3D-printed rocket engine (photo)

a tall nozel secured and held away from a wall with metal arms, spews fire downward into a cutout square. There is scaffolding and pipes around.
A PS4 engine, used in the upper stage of India's PSLV rocket, undergoes hot-fire testing on May 9, 2024. The engine was built using additive manufacturing, in a potential breakthrough for Indian rocket technology. (Image credit: ISRO)

India has announced a breakthrough that could boost its efforts to grow as a space-faring nation.

On May 9, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) performed a successful hot-fire test of a liquid-fueled rocket engine that was built using additive manufacturing (colloquially known as 3D printing) technology. 

The engine, which burns a hypergolic mix of nitrogen tetroxide and monomethyl hydrazine, fired for a duration of 665 seconds, marking a major milestone. The engine is used in the upper stage of India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV). 

Related: Latest news about India's space program

ISRO said the new laser powder bed fusion technique used to make the engine has brought down the number of engine parts from 14 to a single piece. This has eliminated 19 weld joints and saved significantly on the raw material usage per engine: The new process uses 30.2 pounds (13.7 kilograms) of metal powder, for example, compared to the 1,245 pounds (565 kg) of forgings and sheets needed with the conventional technique. The new process also reduces the overall production time by 60%, according to ISRO.

The 145-foot-tall (44 meters) PSLV is one of India's workhorse launchers, along with the LVM-3. The rocket can deliver up to 3,860 pounds (1,750 kg) of payload to sun-synchronous polar orbits 370 miles (600 km) high.

The milestone will help the country boost its launch rate. India also has grand plans in human spaceflight including landing an astronaut on the moon and establishing a lunar base by 2047

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.