A team of British aeronautical specialist revealed that they are preparing to launch the world’s first ever 3D print rocket. The head of the Special Project Bureau at technology magazine “The Register”, Lester Haines showed off the human – sized rocket, and described the technical challenges it faced. He also talked about the big future of 3D printing in aeronautics. It took 30 committed team-members, including doctorate aeronautical engineers, and four long years to build the rocket.
In an interview, Haines told AFP, “You can do highly complex shapes that simply aren’t practical to do any other way. NASA are already 3D-printing metal rocket parts, so it’s obviously got a big future.”
The project is sponsored by German data analytics firm Exasol, and was suggested by readers of The Register and goes by the grand title “Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator”, or LOHAN for short. He called LOHAN “a because it’s there project”, and had no commercial value, but added that the number of potential uses for similar Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) was “endless”.
Haines further explained how 3D printing’s main advantage was in speeding up the process of refining prototypes, requiring only a tweak to the computer-aided design (CAD) plans that instruct the printer.
However, the biggest challenge, according to Haines, was getting the standard hobbyist rocket motor to fire at high altitudes. The team revealed, that it will launch the rocket from Spaceport America, the home of Virgin Galactic in New Mexico, later this year, after securing the £15,000 ($24,000, 19,000 euros) needed for lift-off on crowd funding site Kickstarter.
The craft will be lifted by a huge helium balloon will lift the rocket 20,000 metres (65,600 feet) into the stratosphere, at which point the onboard GPS will ignite the engine, catapulting it to speeds of around 1,000 miles (1,610 kilometres) per hour. The three-kilogramme rocket, which cost £6,000 to print, will then use an onboard autopilot to guide it back to Earth, all captured by an onboard video camera.