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3D Printers Help NASA Rocket Development Mission

Mar 02, 2019

Rocket Lab is a start-up company that develops small satellite air. On December 16, in New Zealand, the Rocket Lab launched the ELaNa-19 (Nano-satellite educational launch), which carries 13 nano-satellites called CubeSat.

This 3D-printed electronic rocket brought CubeSat to the sky in less than an hour, and these nanosatellites were successfully deployed to their designated orbits. The electronic rocket is 17 meters high and has a maximum load of 225 kilograms. The release has been a real success, and the new release plan was launched in 2019!

3D Print Rocket How does it work?

The rocket uses two different engines. One is the Rocket Lab's Rutherford liquid propellant engine, which is also the first oxygen/kerosene engine to use 3D printing for all necessary and major components. It also happens to be the first battery-powered rocket engine. The engine is reducing the need for heavy-duty pressurized fuel tanks, and the final electronic rocket weighs only 35 kilograms. The reduction in weight naturally leads to a reduction in cost. This engine will be used as a primary and secondary engine.

The second type of engine is the Curie, which powers the "kick-up phase" of the engine. We call it the kick phase, which is designed to reorient the rocket once it reaches the highest point of its elliptical orbit, so that the satellite is safely transported into its orbit.

Why choose 3D printing to make rockets?

 All of the basic components of the rocket are 3D printed using EBM technology (or electron beam melting process). How does it work? EBM uses an electron beam to 3D printed metal. The electron beam melts the metal powder layer by layer in a high vacuum and complete melting of the metal powder can be achieved. This method produces a fully dense metal part and maintains the properties of the material. Using this method, it is possible to manufacture cheaper engine components for the company.

 In fact, Rocket Lab has a good reason to choose 3D printing: this manufacturing technology allows them to make lighter rockets at a lower cost! Reducing weight and cost is the advantage of using 3D printing technology. This technology not only has an advantage in aerospace, but it can also do this in other industries. Maybe your company needs this technology?

In addition to making lighter satellites, 3D printing technology allows companies to speed up production processes and reduce time costs with faster production speeds!

This technology has been used by NASA to prototype rocket engines. They actually made prototypes of rocket engines using two different metals: copper alloys and inconel. They used a process called brazing to add two different types of metals to create a completely new component. The advantages of this advanced process manufacturing shorten the lead time and 3D printed parts are more durable than traditional parts.