The additive advantage of Rocket Maker Skyrora: Europe’s largest metal hybrid 3D printer –

All-in-one service provider and manufacturer of satellite launchers, Skyrora created the largest hybrid metal printer of its kind in Europe. By allowing printing and machining on the same bed, the bespoke Skyprint 2 platform will optimize the speed and efficiency of rocket part manufacturing and dramatically reduce process complexity, cost and time. Printing about 30% compared to other printers. Scheduled to debut in Q2 2022, the Skyprint 2 is Skyrora’s second bespoke manufacturing system for in-house manufacturing and is expected to manufacture parts up to 2.3 meters tall for its flagship small launcher, the Skyrora XL.

Skyrora Skyprint 2 3D printer. Image courtesy of Skyrora.

More than ever, space companies are looking to take full control of the manufacturing process. In-house production can reduce overhead, dramatically reduce manufacturing time, and provide the flexibility to produce custom parts when needed. At the same time, as a new environment of private space companies emerges, the market becomes more competitive, demanding streamlined manufacturing processes that can help build satellites, rockets and space vehicles in a short time.

Over the past decade, several startups have sprung up, touting additive manufacturing (AM) as one of the key processes for building spacecraft. For example, specialist in 3D printing Relativity space uses several 3D printers, all developed in-house, to build rockets. In the same way, Rocket lab is known for its almost fully 3D printed rocket motor, the world’s first battery-powered rocket motor, while Launcher relies heavily on low-cost manufacturing through 3D printing to create its rockets and transfer vehicles.

Since its founding, Skyrora has leveraged AM techniques to meet the growing demand for small satellite launches in a cost-effective manner. Based in Edinburgh’s Edgefield industrial area, Skyrora aims to launch suborbital rockets and enter orbit by 2023, in time for an inaugural low Earth orbit (LEO) launch. For this to happen, the company is ready to continue using AM processes for component manufacturing.

Skyrora Skyprint 2 3D printer.

Skyrora Skyprint 2 3D printer. Image courtesy of Skyrora.

Following on from Skyprint 1, Skyrora’s first additive machine for the simultaneous printing of multi-composite parts using multiple materials, the bespoke Skyprint 2 will offer a hybrid, bimetallic and economical manufacturing service to meet the growing demand for launches. small satellites. Skyrora’s vision is to respond to this growing appetite by combining proven technology with cutting-edge innovation to create economical and responsive access to space.

One of the main advantages of Skyprint 2 is that it can manufacture via subtraction or addition processes, which means that it can repair parts and machining elements that have not been printed on the machine. ‘origin. Additionally, Skyprint 2 will use Inconel, a superalloy known for its high temperature strength, which makes up most of the mass of Skyrora’s rocket motors and uses Directed Energy Deposition (DED), a process AM in which focused thermal energy is used to fuse materials by melting them as they settle.

Skyprint 2 is designed to minimize material usage with its “net-like shape” DED process. In fact, any residual material that would otherwise be lost due to the blowout is instead collected and recycled, allowing for greater material efficiency and making the parts more durable.

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Commenting on this latest addition, Skyrora Founder and CEO Volodymyr Levykin said, “Skyprint 2 reinforces our ambitions not only to be the first company to launch from UK soil, but also to do so in the most sustainable possible. By taking greater control of the design and manufacturing process of our parts using our advanced bespoke 3D printing technology, we are taking a crucial new step towards providing an important space service from our own soil. The creation of this cost-effective and rapid solution encapsulates the innovation and talent that resides at the heart of the UK space industry. As an asset, Skyprint 2 is a true game changer – it will transform Skyrora’s operations and stretch the limits of what is possible in space engineering in general.

Indeed, with standard and bulk methods of manufacturing engine parts from Inconel alloy (oxidation-corrosion resistant materials well suited to extreme environments subjected to pressure and heat), it can take up to ten weeks. from design to production, not to mention quality changes, says the company. Instead, building on Skyprint 2, Skyrora hopes to drastically reduce the time it takes to manufacture key rocket engine components to just two weeks, thanks to the direct forming capabilities of the process.

The Skyrora team next to its Skylark L rocket vehicle prototype.

The Skyrora team alongside their Skylark L rocket vehicle prototype. Image courtesy of Skyrora.

Following the announcement by Skyrora in October 2021 of a multi-launch agreement with the SaxaVord Spaceport––House of the British space agencyThe Vertical Launch Pathfinder program, which will enable the company to perform 16 launches per year by 2030, the ability to fully design and print parts using Skyprint 2 will significantly reduce the time it takes for Skyrora to manufacture its rockets from 2022.

Previously known as the Shetland Space Center, the renowned SaxaVord spaceport in Unst, one of the islands in the north of the Shetland Islands, is set to become a successful and internationally recognized new space site. Skyrora is targeting 16 launches per year at the height of the decade-long project in 2030. A few months ago, Levykin said that this multiple launch deal with SaxaVord fits perfectly with his company’s ambition to be the first to launch from British soil.

So far, the Scottish rocket maker has successfully tested live its Skylark L, a prototype rocket that was created to perform final subsystem checks before use on Skyrora XL, a 23-meter orbital launcher. long capable of launching satellites into orbit. The Skyrora XL takes place in three stages and, according to the company, the third stage has successfully completed 100 rounds of tests at its facility in Fife, Scotland, indicating that it is ready for a test launch. Stages one and two are yet to undergo similar testing, with a first test flight scheduled for the last quarter of 2022.

Mary I. Bruner