In Scotland, a rocket engine on a 3D printer is printed
The private Scottish startup Orbex may have been the author of one of the great breakthroughs in the space industry. The project team managed to print the engine on a 3D printer. At the same time, the development has remarkable characteristics and there is a real prospect of its installation on missiles. Orbex plans to carry out independent launches by 2021. With a high probability, the construction of aircraft will be carried out using this technology.
Features of 3D printed engine
Special powder materials produced by SLM Solutions (Germany) were used to manufacture the rocket engine. The development is planned to be installed on a light carrier rocket Prime. As in the case of SpaceX, Orbex intends to adapt the first stage for repeated use.
Aircraft manufactured by the Scottish startup will be able to put into orbit up to 150 kg of payload.
Thanks to the use of special materials and 3D printing technology, it will be possible to achieve a significant improvement in the performance of missiles. In particular, the mass of carriers will be reduced by 30% compared to modern developments, and the efficiency increase will be 20%. Moreover, the innovative solutions offered by Orbex can reduce the cost of spacecraft production by 2 times, and it is possible to produce engines 10 times faster.
In addition to improving the performance of power plants, 3D printing has other advantages. The primary one is the absence of welds and detachable joints. As you know, joints are a weak point for any structure, including the rocket engine. Monolithic products will be deprived of this disadvantage.
Orbex expects to be the first commercial carrier of cargo and passengers into space in Europe. The startup is actively working with various state and inter-state organizations, borrowing from them experience and offering new developments. In particular, the partners of the organization are NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA), as well as the private Corporation Arianespace. If Orbex will be able to realize the idea, it can become a serious competitor in the market. While it is difficult to talk about competition with SpaceX, but the company can take its niche and squeeze out of the market of the second-tier companies.
In particular, RocketLab is at risk, with investors from the United States and New Zealand standing behind it. Interestingly, this organization cooperates with Orbex and the enterprises even plan to jointly build the Sutherland spaceport (Scotland). However, startups will not be able to finally unite, because their technologies are designed for different types of fuel. RocketLab manufactures kerosene engines, and Orbex plans to launch spacecraft on propane.
Investments in the Scottish startup have already exceeded 40 million US dollars. The first launches of its own missiles are planned in 2021. Orbex already has its first client, the Surrey Satellite Technology company, which is also located in the British Isles. It is also reported that representatives of the Scottish company agreed with the Swiss company Astrocast, which is engaged in the development of infrastructure for the Internet of things. It is planned to launch at least 10 satellites of the organization.