Students from the University of California San Diego have successfully achieved launching a liquid-fueled rocket dubbed Vulcan-1 with an engine that was 3D-printed entirely out of Inconel 718.
Image Credit: SEDS UCSD/YouTube
Every component of the engine, which has been named Ignus, was made in the 3D printer, which means the university students have actually accomplished something NASA wanted to do before NASA could even get to it.
The Vulcan-1 rocket was launched from the Mojave Desert in Southeastern California in an attempt to see how the 3D-printed Ignus engine would fare.
As it turns out, the results were surprising. The launch, which occurred on May 21st, can be viewed in the YouTube video below:
"The Ignus Engine was designed to produce 750 pounds of thrust and is less than 1 foot tall. It weighs around 15 pounds,” said Deepak Atyam, the founder of the Students for the Exploration of Space (SEDS).
"We initially focused on utilizing existing designs and attempting to improve the status quo. The injector was modeled after the iconic F-1 engine.”
The engine operates using liquid oxygen and kerosene RP-1, both of which are commonly used in liquid fuel rocket applications.
There were no accurate measurements of the true altitude of the Vulcan-1 rocket following lift-off, but the students estimated that it went approximately 4,000 feet in the air.
For the students, who spent restless days working on the project, this is a great achievement. The project, which was dubbed Tri-D, has reportedly been in the works since 2013.
This rocket is by no means comparable to the rockets NASA uses, which take equipment into space so the International Space Station’s inhabitants survive and so that our GPS systems don’t fail, but it does show that launching rockets with nothing but 3D-printed parts is possible.
3D printing may not only change the way we think about inhabiting other planets, but it may also change the way we look at rocket technology.
Source: Space.com, YouTube