RCI awarded U.S. patent for 3D-printed rocket combustion chamber

A U.S. patent was granted for designing and fabricating fuel grains for hybrid rocket engines using additive manufacturing.

A U.S. patent was granted to Rocket Crafters (RCI; Titusville, FL) co-founder, president, and CTO Ronald Jones for a method for designing and fabricating high-performance, safer-handling fuel grains for hybrid rocket engines using additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing), which will allow the fabrication of an inherently safe and less-expensive launch vehicle with only two moving parts. Jones states that 3D printing of the rocket combustion chamber allows the company's expendable motors to deliver small satellites to orbits at as low as half the current launch costs.

RCI is developing Intrepid-1, a mass-producible orbital launch vehicle powered by rocket engines based on the now-patented technology. This most recent patent furthers RCI's portfolio of licensed technology that now includes multiple granted patents and pending applications.

Former NASA astronaut and retired Sandia National Labs executive Sid Gutierrez, chairman and CEO of RCI says, "I have believed for years that hybrid rockets, due to the inherent safety when propellants are protected against accidental detonation by storing them in different states, could be the solution to make rocket-powered flight as safe as airline travel one day. With our 3D-printed fuel technology, we now have the means to make this a reality."

The patented method (US 9,453,479) uses a design and fabrication technique that is only possible using advanced 3D printing technology to boost rocket engine performance while eliminating the historical inconsistencies and sources of excessive vibration that have plagued traditionally designed hybrid rockets for decades. His patented method takes advantage of 3D printing's unique ability to precisely fabricate fuel grains (a tubular shaped structure that dually serves as the rocket's solid fuel source and combustion chamber), which features internal geometric patterns designed to significantly increase the amount of fuel that is available for combustion on a second-by-second basis during the rocket engine's operation.

RCI is currently on track to incorporate their rocket motors into orbital launch vehicles in 2019.

For more information, please visit www.rocketcrafters.com.

More in Additive Manufacturing