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Additive Manufactured Aerospike Rocket Engine

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Amaero Engineering in collaboration with a team of Monash engineering PhD students have designed, manufactured and test-fired a rocket engine.

Having successfully manufactured the world’s first additively manufactured jet engine Amaero approached the team with a challenge to design an engine that would fully utilise the near limitless geometric complexity of AM. “We were able to focus on the features that boost the engine’s performance, including the nozzle geometry and the embedded cooling network. These are normally balanced against the need to consider how on earth someone is going to manufacture such a complex piece of equipment. Not so with additive manufacturing” says Graham Bell, the project lead.

The unique aerospike design offers some unique advantages over its more conventional counterparts. “Traditional bell-shaped rockets, as seen on the Space Shuttle, work at peak efficiency at ground level. As they climb the flame spreads out reducing thrust. The aerospike design maintains its efficiency but is very hard to build using traditional technology,” says Marten Jurg, an engineer with Amaero. “Using additive manufacturing we can create complex designs, print them, test them, tweak them, and reprint them in days instead of months”.

Some additional facts about the engine:

  • The engine is a complex multi-chamber aerospike design
  • Additively manufactured with selective laser melting on an EOS M280
  • Built from Hasteloy X; a high strength nickel based superalloy
  • Fuel: compressed natural gas (methane); oxidiser: compressed oxygen
  • Design thrust of 4kN or about 1,000 pounds. This is enough to hover the equivalent of five people (around 400 kg)

The video below discusses the design and manufacturing in more detail as well as showing some of the successful test firings that have recently been completed. We hope you enjoy it.

The development of the aerospike rocket was supported by Monash University, Amaero Engineering, and Woodside Energy through the Woodside Innovation Centre at Monash. The Monash engineers have now created a company, NextAero, to take their concepts to the global aerospace industry, starting with the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide on 25-29 September.

 

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