The use of 3D printing technology for space exploration has grown to be quite a common occurrence. NASA has recently claimed to use specially formulated 3D printed ceramics to create their spaceships, while Made In Space and Enterprise In Space launched a project to develop an eight-foot-long, 1,000-pound 3D printed satellite. Suffice it to say, additive manufacturing has led to a number of space-driven innovations, but none of these spacecraft or satellites have used 3D printed fuel to get there…
That’s right, 3D printed fuel. Which is exactly what the Singapore-based startup Gilmour Space Technologies utilized to successfully launch their self-made RASTA rocket into sub-orbit. This proprietary 3D printed fuel was developed by a seven-person research team at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) campus, which is where Gilmour Space Technologies’ office is located. The startup was founded by Adam and Michelle Gilmour, a married couple who left their careers in banking behind to venture into rocket-launch services.
The 3D printed fuel is the culmination of two combined materials, which the company claims dramatically reduces the overall cost of rocket launches. Along with this so-called “secret sauce” that was formulated to power their self-made rocket, the team also designed a patent-pending 3D printer prototype, which was developed to print the multiple materials that make up their unique rocket fuel concoction because, noted Michelle Gilmour, “Our proprietary rocket fuel cannot be printed with existing 3D printers.”
The startup was formed through the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster, which was developed last September by the SPRING Singapore and the National Research Foundation, which reportedly funded Gilmour Space Technologies with a “six-figure” sum of money. As you can tell, there’s a lot of undisclosed information about the technology developed by the Singapore-based startup, but they did admit to building a commercial version of their 3D printer, and over the next 18 months, plan to create 3D printed fuel-powered rockets that are capable of carrying satellites.
For sub-orbital experimentation, which would entail rockets carrying small satellite loads, Gilmour Space Technologies plans to price their launches at around $750,000, a bargain compared to the usual cost of $1 million. In the near future, the startup also plans to produce larger rockets to hoist up orbital satellites into space. The planned price for each orbital launch would be around $5 million, a substantially lower price than the $15 million fee that a similar service would likely cost today. In order to accomplish this larger-scale feat, Gilmour Space Technologies is seeking venture capitalists for financial assistance.
“We think the space industry is going through a renaissance. There are more and more uses being developed for space satellites in areas such as earth observation, global communication systems and asteroid mining,” said Michelle Gilmour.
The successfully launched test rocket created by the startup was sent towards orbit from the ground in Queensland, Australia, and went up approximately 5km, proving that their unique 3D printed fuel was functionally sound. Along with their launch site in Australia, Gilmour Space Technologies is working with NASA to develop more launch sites in the United States. Singapore may not be the most likely home for such a space-based innovation, but hey, the idea of 3D printed rocket fuel has a hint of unlikeliness of its own. We will certainly stay tuned for more information about this 3D printed rocket fuel formulation, but until then, we can rest assured that something special is being developed by this Singaporean startup. What are your thoughts on this amazing self-made technology? Discuss further in the 3D Printed fuel forum over at 3DPB.com.[Source: The Straits Times]