Last month, Rocket Lab successfully sent a rocket into space using a fully 3D printed engine – the first of its kind.
Although engineers have previously dabbled with 3D printed components in rocket engines, Rocket Lab, small aviation company, decided to put more faith in 3D printing. Despite the rocket not quite managing to get into orbit, they are admittedly very happy they did, as it proved to save time, cost and most importantly – weight.
Reaching space in only three minutes after launching from New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula, this rocket’s 3D printed engine is said to be “50% more efficient than traditional gas-powered engines”. Rocket Lab’s CEO, Peter Beck, said, “We had a great first stage burn, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation. We didn’t quite reach orbit, and we’ll be investigating why. However, reaching space in our first test puts us in an incredibly strong position to accelerate the commercial phase of our program.” (source: 3dnatives.com)
The details of exactly how the engine was designed and printed have not yet been disclosed in any detail, but it is said to have been printed in only 24 hours on Rocket Lab’s website. but the success will likely encourage others to trial 3D printed engines for low-cost space exploration.
In turn, the increased accessibility of space to more individuals and companies looking to get satellites into orbit for example, is becoming a closer reality than many expected. Rocket Lab intend to lead this initiative and become a “low-cost space hub” (Source: The Guardian).
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