A liquid-fuel rocket engine is just about the hardest thing anyone could ever build. There are considerations for thermodynamics, machining, electronics, material science, and software just to have something that won’t blow up on the test rig.
The data to build a liquid engine isn’t easy to find, either: a lot of helpful info is classified or locked up in one of Elon’s file cabinets.
Graham over at Fubar Labs in New Jersey is working to change this. He’s developing an open source, 3D printed, liquid fuel rocket engine. Right now, it’s not going to fly, but that’s not the point: the first step towards developing a successful rocket is to develop a successful engine, and Graham is hard at work making this a reality.
This engine, powered by gaseous oxygen and ethanol, is designed for 3D printing. It’s actually a great use of the technology; SpaceX and NASA have produced 3D printed engine parts using DMLS printers, but Graham is using the much cheaper (and available at Shapeways) metal SLS printers to produce his engine. Rocket engines are extremely hard to manufacture with traditional methods, making 3D printing the perfect process for building a rocket engine. … (read more)