Rocket Crafters, an aerospace company based in Florida, is patenting its hybrid rocket engine technology. The engine, which the company described as throttle-able, affordable, reliable and 3D-printed, is said to be a milestone in the world of rocket science. For many years, rocket scientists have been trying to develop a hybrid engine — unsuccessfully. All of these attempts failed along the way due to fuel combustion issues. However, thanks to 3D-printing technology, Rocket Crafters has managed to develop a hybrid engine known as the STAR-3D. The engine has completed over 40 subscale engine tests and is now poised to engage in large-scale tests.
What is a hybrid rocket engine?
If you are not a fan of rockets or rocket science, you may not have a clue about the impact of developing a hybrid engine. In simple terms, a hybrid engine means that the rocket will be fueled by a combination of solid and liquid or gas fuel. This is a big achievement for the world, considering that the hybrid engine will be much greener. The combustion of rocket fuels has negative impacts on the environment, but this new technology tries to address these issues.
Rockets that are strictly solid-fueled cannot be throttled or restarted, while hybrid rockets can. This is one of the reasons why many scientists have been working on hybrid rocket technology. The hybrid engine is much faster and safer as compared to solid- or liquid-fueled counterparts. According to Rocket Crafters, the company can also scale rocket engines from 125lbf to 5000lbf and is continuing to test higher powers.
Compared to the liquid-fueled rocket engines, the hybrid is much easier to develop and less expensive, too. Liquid-fueled rockets have been favored in the past for being environmentally safer than solid-fueled rockets; however, the cost of developing liquid-fueled rockets has proved to be the problem. Most aerospace companies have been striving to find a balance between the cost and sustainability of the rockets. Hybrid engines are less expensive in terms of maintenance. The engines by Rocket Crafters have two main moving parts, which means that they are less mechanical. They separately store fuel in two different states (solid and liquid), which helps safeguard against accidental detonation.
But the attempt to shift to hybrid engines has been met by many challenges. According to a report in 3DPrint, both governments and industries have been unable to develop a safe hybrid engine for years. In previous attempts, the rockets were met with issues such as excessive thrust and unpredictable vibrations.
Purpose of the hybrid engine
In the initial stages of developing the engine, it was used to send small rockets into the Earth’s orbit. The company now plans to work with private businesses and governments that send small satellites to outer space. The 3D-printed hybrid engine makes launching rockets into space much easier and safer.
Just as many other companies that have been using 3D-printing to make the world a better place, Rocket Crafters have managed to change the future of rockets completely. This means that rocket travel will be much more accessible. The new technology now seeks to bring the cost of more sustainable rocketing to a record low.
Hybrid engines are greener
The most impressive aspect of the new hybrid engines is that they are better for the environment. Traditionally, solid-fueled engines would emit heavy carbon waste into the atmosphere. Due to such effects of solid-fueled engines, there has been pressure for more rocket manufacturers to turn to liquid-fueled engines, which are greener. Liquid-fueled engines are propelled by liquid hydrogen, which produces water vapor exhaust. But the production of hydrogen itself can also cause significant pollution. The end game for rocket manufactures turns out to be hybrid engines — something that Rocket Crafters hopes to make as safe and sustainable as possible.
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