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Indian Startup 3D Prints Rocket Engine in Just 72 Hours

Published by Slashdot on Thu, 13 Jun 2024

cusco writes: Indian space startup Agnikul used a 3-D printer from German company EOS to print an engine out of inconel, a high-performance nickel-chromium alloy, in one solid piece over the course of roughly 72 hours. While other companies like Relativity Space and Rocket Lab are using 3-D printers extensively, Agnikul's engine is unique in being printed in one go, rather than as multiple components that need to be stitched together. This approach significantly speeds up manufacturing time. The single-engine technology demonstration rocket produced 6 kilonewtons of thrust and reached an altitude of 6.5 kilometers before splashing down into the ocean. The launch vehicle used was about 6 meters tall with a single engine, making it roughly equivalent to the second stage of the company's planned commercial product, Agnibaan. Agnibaan will be a two-stage rocket, 18 meters tall, featuring eight engines in total, and capable of carrying a 300-kilogram payload to an altitude of around 700 km. The company believes that their 3D printing approach opens the door to providing low-cost, "on-demand" launch services to operators of small satellites. IEEE Spectrum adds: Assembling the rest of the rocket and integrating the engine took roughly two weeks. The company says that opens the door to providing low-cost, "on-demand" launch services to operators of small satellites, which otherwise need to wait for a ride share on a bigger rocket. The big challenge now will be going from a single engine to a cluster of seven on Agnibaan's first stage, says cofounder and CEO Srinath Ravichandran. This raises all kinds of challenges, from balancing thrust across the engines at lift-off to managing engine plume interactions when the engines gimbal to alter the trajectory. "But these are problems that people have figured out," he says. "We believe that we should just be able to fine-tune it for our mission and go." The company is currently building facilities to carry out ground tests of engine clusters, says Ravichandran, and is targeting its first orbital launch for this time next year.Read more of this story at Slashdot.
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