Ursa Major announced the delivery of its first copper-based 3D-printed rocket engine combustion chambers out of its additive manufacturing lab in Youngstown, Ohio.
The processes developed at this facility compress the production and delivery cycle to one month, compared to a minimum of six months using traditional manufacturing. Ursa Major will test these advanced copper alloy-based engine components for space launch and hypersonic applications.
“Speed is of the essence when it comes to producing rocket engines right now because lack of propulsion is causing a significant bottleneck in U.S. access to space and hypersonics testing,” said Joe Laurienti, founder and CEO of Ursa Major. “The Ursa Major facility in Youngstown is playing a pivotal role in accelerating our customers’ time to market in both commercial and government sectors.”
It’s All About the Partnerships
The Ursa Major Advanced Manufacturing Lab began in October of 2021, with $3 million in federal financial support from U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Department of Defense-backed manufacturing innovation institute America Makes.
“Ursa Major’s goal to help establish the U.S. as a global supplier of rocket propulsion is in line with our efforts to foster domestic innovation and manufacturing across industries,” said Rep. Tim Ryan. “I’m pleased that Ohio is home to this state-of-the-art facility that will ultimately help the U.S. regain its leadership in space and hypersonic technologies.”
The Youngstown-based facility is equipped with an EOS large-format laser powder bed fusion 3D printer designed to make on-demand components for the rocket engines. It’s located in the Youngstown Business Incubator, an internationally recognized program focused on the development of software and additive manufacturing companies in the region.
“This type of advanced 3D printing is a great example of the kind of American innovation that America Makes seeks to support,” said John Wilczynski, Executive Director of America Makes. “Successful projects like this are part of a resurgence in American manufacturing that helps strengthen our domestic supply chain.”
Filling a Crucial Need
The existing supply chain for high temperature metal alloy components is limited, and it can take months to turn around a needed revision. The Advanced Manufacturing Lab accelerates the engine development process, allowing us to rapidly iterate on design adjustments in-house to improve engine performance and reliability.
The Advanced Manufacturing Lab was critical to rapidly redesigning the “Ripley” from a 35,000 to 50,000-pound thrust engine in order to meet market demand. The technical lessons learned from Ripley and the methods and materials produced in this facility are now contributing to the development and testing of their two other rocket engine programs – the “Hadley,” a 5,000-pound thrust, oxygen-rich staged combustion engine used in small launch and hypersonics, and the recently announced 200,000-pound thrust “Arroway” designed for medium and heavy launch.
3D printing allows Ursa Major to speed up engine production and apply improvements gleaned from testing in real time, lowering costs. Their rocket engines are more than 80% 3D-printed by mass and primarily built and tested in the company’s Berthoud, Colorado headquarters.
Ursa Major Engines
Ursa Majors’s rocket engines are designed for flexibility and reusability, suitable for a range of missions, from air launch to hypersonic flight to on-orbit missions with many restarts. They have built and tested more than 50 staged-combustion rocket engines so far and will deliver 30 of them by year’s end. To date, Ursa Majors engines have accumulated more than 36,000 seconds of run-time, far more than a typical engine is tested prior to first flight.
For more information about the company, visit www.ursamajor.com.