Metal Binder Jetting
Automotive Polymers

US Government Authorizes Moon Express to Send Robotic Spacecraft with 3D Printed Components to the Moon in 2017

Share this Article

moon-express-moon-logoCould it really be possible that within the next decade, you can actually book a flight to the moon? Naveen Jain, the co-founder of privately funded commercial space company Moon Express, thinks so. He sees moon exploration as part of a ten-year vision that could span anywhere from research facilities for Mars-bound technologies, to an exotic honeymoon vacation destination. What’s even more amazing is that you could fly to the moon on a rocket made with 3D printed parts!

naveen-jain-moon-expressThe California-based company submitted its historic application for a commercial lunar mission in early April of this year. After many in-depth consultations with the FAA, the White House, the State Department, NASA, and other federal agencies, Moon Express got the green light they were looking for. In mid-2016, the US government made a monumental policy decision and gave the company authorization for a maiden flight of its robotic spacecraft with 3D printed components. It will travel beyond Earth’s orbit and land on the moon’s surface in 2017. Just in case you may have forgotten, 2017 will be here in less than a month!

Until now, all commercial companies have been limited to operations within Earth’s orbit; only governments have sent missions to other worlds. So Moon Express is the first private company to receive approval for a commercial mission of lunar exploration and discovery. Jain is eyeing SpaceX for a launch partner, as the two companies have similar reasons for getting involved in private space exploration: multi-planetary habitation as a backup plan for the survival of humanity. If all goes well in the space tourism economy, Jain hopes that tourists will be able to book a flight to the moon by 2026 for $10,000 a seat, and stay in a hotel in orbit above the Earth.

rocketlab

Rocket Lab booster

But first things first: with a launch goal of 2017, Moon Express plans to send a rover to the lunar surface, to start searching for the best locations for future operations, like mining iron ore. The first rocket Moon Express plans to use for their historic private mission, their MX-1 lander (perched atop a Rocket Lab Electron booster), will cost about $5 million. But Jain expects the price to drop, with the same spacecraft budgeted to run $2 million within five years.

rutherford1So let’s go back to the Rocket Lab Electron booster for a minute. The New Zealand company’s Rutherford engine, which is capable of 4,600 lbs. of thrust and uses a battery-powered, electric turbo pump to drive its propulsion, is the first rocket to have all of its fundamental components 3D printed, including the injector, pumps, and main propellant valves. It takes just three days to print, and the company is ready to take it to the moon.

For the first stage of the 20-meter carbon composite Electron rocket‘s journey into space, nine Rutherford engines will be used, with an entirely new propulsion cycle: its high-performance electric propellant pumps reduce the overall mass and replace clunky hardware with lightweight software. For the second stage, a special variation of the Rutherford will be used, made to survive the vacuum of space travel. Though it’s lightweight, the Electron rocket is capable of delivering 100kg payloads to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit (in lower Earth orbits, that’s the same as 400kg payloads).

With their 2017 lunar mission, Moon Express will compete for the Google Lunar XPrize, a $20 million race to be the first team to put a robotic lander on the moon, and drive it 1,640 feet while beaming HD video back to Earth. Second place is worth $5 million, and another $5 million awarded for achieving various goals. Discuss in the Moon Express forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources: Moon Express; Next Big Future]

electronrocket

Share this Article


Recent News

3D Printing News Unpeeled, Live with Joris Peels Friday 19th of August

3D Printer OEM Nexa3D Lays off Staff Amid Economic Downturn



Categories

3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns


You May Also Like

Leading Women in Manufacturing Inducted to WiMEF’s Hall of Fame

Seeking to recognize women making outstanding contributions to the manufacturing industry, the Women in Manufacturing Education Foundation (WiMEF) inducted 13 women leaders to its 2022 class of Women in Manufacturing...

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: August 14, 2022

This week, you can catch Markforged and Stratasys on the road, and ASTM continues its personnel certificate course. America Makes is celebrating its 10th anniversary and holding MMX, and Nexa3D...

Featured

Discrimination and Inequity in the 3D Printing Workplace

As Women in 3D Printing continues its mission to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the additive manufacturing (AM) industry and beyond, it may be difficult to know exactly...

3D Printing Webinar and Event Roundup: August 7, 2022

Things are picking up a little in terms of 3D printing webinars and events this week! Fortify will be at the SmallSat Conference, ASTM is continuing its virtual certificate course,...