June 9, 2014-On a very dry, hot Saturday, May 30, 2015, at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) launch site in California’s Mojave Desert, an undergraduate team from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) successfully hot-fire tested an additively manufactured rocket engine nicknamed Ignus. The purpose of the test was to obtain critical data to support the next phase of the project.
Deepak Atyam, SEDS@UCSD President, shortly after the test said, “We now have the data we need. In a couple of weeks, we will leave for Utah to try and become the first people in the world to launch and recover a rocket, powered by a 3D printed engine.” The hot-fire test was the last of a series of tests by SEDS@UCSD in advance of launching a rocket, powered by Ingus, at the annual Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC) held by the Experimental Sounding Rocket Association (ESRA) in Utah this June.
While the test proved successful, the team was challenged early on when an igniter failed to ignite the engine. The SEDS team remained resolute, operating in a highly disciplined, organized manner. Feennette Navarro, Business Team member, stated, “We have a great team that works well together. All of our members are undergraduates and are more than willing to sacrifice their personal time to SEDS and the Vulcan-1 project.”
Testing of the additively manufactured rocket engine Ingus is part of a research project by SEDS@UCSD aimed at making space exploration more affordable. The SEDS@UCSD team designed the engine capitalizing on the benefits associated with additive manufacturing including design customization, faster development time and lower costs as compared to more traditional manufacturing practices. GPI Prototype and Manufacturing Services, located in Lake Bluff, Illinois, additively manufactured the engine using an additive technology known as Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS).
In 2013, the SEDS team broke ground by designing and successfully testing an additively manufactured full-size, liquid-fueled, metal rocket engine named Tri-D. The engine was designed to produce 200 lbs. of thrust using Rocket Propellant-1 (kerosene) for fuel, and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer. The rocket engine was produced from cobalt chromium, a highly wear and corrosion resistant material, using DMLS technology.
As a follow up to the Tri-D rocket engine, the SEDS@UCSD team conducted two hot-fire tests of a second rocket engine, Vulcan-1, on April 18, 2015. The Vulcan-1 rocket engine, nicknamed Ignus, was additively manufactured from Inconel 718 using DMLS technology. The thrust objective for the Vulcan-1 engine was a much higher 750 lbs. of thrust.
Video courtesy of SEDS@UCSD
Following the successful hot-fire tests in April, SEDS@UCSD launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the development of a rocket powered by the Vulcan-1 rocket engine. The Kickstarter campaign raised $21,882 with 465 supporters. The project also received generous support from industry as well as a grant from NASA. And like in the early days of its foundation, the SEDS team held barbeques to help with funding.
In the coming weeks, the SEDS@UCSD team will perform a series of diagnostic cold-flow tests without fuel. The team will then begin final preparations for the upcoming Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition held in Green River, Utah June 24-27, 2015. When the Vulcan-1 rocket lifts off at the competition, the event will mark a major accomplishment by SEDS@UCSD; the launch of a rocket powered by an additively manufactured engine.
SEDS@UCSD would like to thank friends and supporters of SEDS@UCSD including the following sponsors:
Aqua Environment Company Inc.
Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR)
GPI Prototype and Manufacturing Services Inc.
Gantner Instruments Inc.
Gordon Engineering Leadership Center
Lockheed Martin Corporation
Hoffer Flow Controls Inc.
International Super Sensors Corp.
Jet Propulsion Laboratories
Marine Science Development Center, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Masten Space Systems Inc.
National Instruments Corporation
Rice Lake Weighing Systems
Rocket Propulsion Analysis
UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
XCOR Aerospace Inc.
The chapter at UC San Diego was founded during the 2012-2013 academic school year by Deepak Atyam, Joshua Benedictos, Kenneth Benedictos, and Benjamin Liu. The founding President, Deepak Atyam, was inspired by a colleague, working on rocket engines, to pursue further research into metal printed motors. That colleague, and current SEDS@UCSD mentor, Jonathan Jones, assisted SEDS@UCSD in the development of complex rocket engines using a relatively simple precision device, a 3D printer. With the assistance and guidance of Marshall Space Flight Center and other prominent individuals in the Aerospace field, SEDS@UCSD became a group of undergraduate researchers on a mission to design, print, and test the feasibility of 3D printed rocket engines. As a tight knit team of engineering students working diligently, SEDS became a well established organization in the span of just a few months. http://seds.ucsd.edu
(Top photo)-Vulcan-1 successful hot-fire test (Photo courtesy of SEDS@UCSD and AMazing)
Article sources: SEDS@UCSD and AMazing
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