Rocket Lab, a start-up funded by Lockheed Martin, is leveraging 3D printing technologies to create something new aimed right at the stars. The “Rutherford” engine they created is made primarily of 3D printed parts. Rocket Lab used metal alloys to print the engine parts. The engine can be printed in as little as three days using a process called “electron beam melting”. 3D printing is allowing for the manufacturing times to be cut down significantly. Using traditional methods the parts would take over a month to create. The engine is also using a new electric propulsion cycle that runs off lithium polymers batteries, the same kind of batteries used in radio controlled cars and drones.  The new rockets are going to be lighter, cheaper, and faster to manufacture. A ready to launch rocket is projected to cost $4.9 million and able to carry a payload of 220lbs. Rocket Lab expects the Rutherford engine and rocket to start launching payloads, including satellites, in 2016.

 

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