While aerospace companies like NASA have long been using 3D printers to help create rockets, a new project at Monash University has shown that start-ups can also achieve great success with space applications. The start-up Amaero and engineers at the university have produced a functional ‘aerospike design’ within 4 months.
This project was spun out of a Monash initiative from 2015, where they produced the first 3D printed jet engine. Since the original test, the researchers created Amaero. This time they modified the technology to allow for rocket flight. The company has gone on to work with multiple large-scale firms involved in the aerospace field.
Advantages of the 3D Printed Rocket
Due to 3D printing, the team was able to develop a unique shape for the rocket. This shape is instrumental to the rocket’s flight capabilities. In many ways it inverts the structure of traditional rocket engines. This shape is very difficult to achieve with traditional manufacturing techniques.
Amaero engineer, Marten Jurg, explained that the “traditional bell-shaped rockets, as seen on the Space Shuttle, work at peak efficiency at ground level. As they climb the flame spreads out, reducing thrust.” A rocket with this shape, however, maintains efficiency as it escalates.
It also allows engineers to tweak and alter their designs far more frequently. Graham Bell, the NextAero project leader stated that “designing for additive manufacture opens up a raft of possibilities. We were able to focus on the features that boost the engine’s performance, including the nozzle geometry and the embedded cooling network.”
Additionally, organisations like this now have the advantage of requiring far lesser manpower. As a result, start-ups like Amaero can launch projects with universities, giving more boost to the private sector space-flight industry.
The Monash researchers have formed a new startup called NextAero, with the aim of continue down this line. NextAero will present their rocket at International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide from September 25 to 29.