Home Industry Rocket Lab Prepares to Send 3D Printed Rocket into Space (Update)

Rocket Lab Prepares to Send 3D Printed Rocket into Space (Update)

Rockets Labs is preparing to launch their two stage rocket Electron. On March 22, Rocket Lab announced that their engine has completed its qualification test, and this engine is made of some 3D printed parts.

5.April 2016 – The Electron is a two stage rocket which is designed to carry a payload of 150kg into Earth orbit. This makes it ideal for small satellites. The heart of the rocket is their new designed engine: The Rutherford liquid engine. The first stage uses nine of this engines while the second stage needs only one Rutherford engine. The engine uses liquid oxygen and kerosene as fuel source. But to get enough pressure in the propellant they developed a pump system which uses a brushless DC motor. The electric motor is driven by a lithium battery. Some of the most important parts of the engine are 3D printed (for example thrust chamber, injector, turbopumps and main propellant valves).The parts are 3D printed titan alloys and were produced by Swedish metal 3D printing company Arcam.

Due to compact construction and 3D printed parts the manufacturing costs could be reduced. So one launch of an Electron should cost only ~4.9 Million Dollar – compared to a SpaceX launch that’s cheap (one SpaceX start costs about 54 Million Dollar). The first launch is planned in the middle of 2016 and 12 more regular launches (with payload) are planned for the end of 2016 to 2017.

26.May 2016 – Update: More successful tests an new employees 

Rocket Lab is a fast growing company; a few days ago they have hired their 100st employee. The whole team is working to prepare everything for the first launch. The second stage with its Rutherford Engine has passed the last qualification tests and is ready for launch.

The success of the innovative technologies we have been developing, including 3D printing, carbon composite structures and proprietary battery technology, are key factors in enabling Rocket Lab to offer frequent and affordable, dedicated launch opportunities.

The first Electron rocket will be launched in the second half of 2016. A detailed date was not published but the CEO told that they want to launch three rockets until the end of 2016. Parallel to the last tests and preparations for the start the company is looking for a new facility for building and starting rockets more frequently.

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