SEDS@UCSD Conducts Hot-Fire Test of Their Second Metal 3D Printed Rocket Engine

The University of California, San Diego chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS@UCSD) conducted two hotfire tests of their second 3D printed rocket engine on April 18, 2015 at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry test facility in the Mojave Desert.

The rocket engine, named Ignus, was sponsored by and completely metal 3D printed at the facilities of GPI Prototype in Lake Bluff, IL. The rocket engine utilized liquid oxygen and kerosene as its propellants and was designed to achieve 750 lbf of thrust, a stepping stone in the club’s goal of producing larger and more powerful rocket engines. The design and testing of this engine is part of a larger project for the students guided and mentored by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center along with Dr. Forman Williams of UCSD.

As members of UC San Diego’s Gordon Engineering Leadership Center, leaders of the club were encouraged to pursue tough and challenging projects to prepare them for their lives post-graduation.

The engine was the product of a year and a half of work that the students put in to design and fabricate both the engine and the test system. This is the students’ most notable headline since they made national news with the first test of a 3D printed engine by a university, in October 2013.

“Seeing the engine roar to life was real validation to the thousands of man hours and sleepless nights designing, building, and preparing the rocket engine and the test stand. It was a testament to our determination and passion for space technologies”, said Deepak Atyam, Club President and Gordon Fellow.

“We aim to align our research so it is compatible with the needs of the aerospace industry. 3D printing has significant benefits including huge cuts to the cost, time to fabricate, and weight of rocket engines.”

The SEDS chapter conducted this research with the support of various organizations including GPI Prototype, NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Lockheed Martin, the Gordon Engineering Leadership Center, and XCOR Aerospace.

Jeremy Voigt, design and test engineer at XCOR, assisted with the testing procedures and explained “There are not many people that can do what they have done, let alone as students, in regards to successfully test firing an engine on the first try. They not only accomplished that, but did it twice in one day, and with the new technology of 3D printing. That’s nothing short of amazing.”

Ignus is the first engine that was tested in a series of hot fires of different engine designs that the club plans to do in a lead up to their eventual rocket launch later this year at the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition. The competition will be held in Green River, Utah June 24-27, 2015. That rocket, named Vulcan1, would be one of the first rockets powered by a 3D printed engine in the world. In order to fund the fabrication and launch of their rocket, the students have launched a KickStarter campaign.

The club would like to personally thank Carl Tedesco of Flometrics; Jeremy Voigt, Patrick Morrison, and Tony Busalacchi of XCOR Aerospace; and Wyatt Rehder of Masten Space Systems for their help during the testing procedures.

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