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ESA awards Dawn Aerospace €385K development contract for 3D printed rocket engines

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The European Space Agency (ESA) has granted a €385K development contract to launch provider, Dawn Aerospace under the Future Launcher Preparatory Program (FLPP).

If the space economy continue to grow at the current rates, in the next 20 years, we will likely see a mass migration of global capability from being Earth-based to space-based. All manner of services and products will be delivered to Earth from the sky above. The near-Earth space economy will be a vibrant ecosystem of satellites, factories and habitats and the gateway to the rest of the solar system.

To realize this vision, Dawn Aerospace is developing scalable and sustainable space transportation technology to become the backbone of the near-space economy, redefining how hardware is delivered to space, how assets are positioned on orbit and how products are returned to Earth.

Unlike companies trying to adapt new manufacturing technologies to legacy rocket designs, Dawn’s vision is to use advanced technologies, such as composites and additive manufacturing, to bring space transportation into the scalable yet sustainable era. The ambitious idea is to reuse hardware thousands of times, with spaceplanes that integrate with, not displace, other air users. And where toxic rocket chemicals and throwing dead rockets in the ocean is a thing of the past.

Dawn Aerospace

Trailing behind new commercial launch firms, with very high cost per launch, the ESA could certainly benefit from this approach. Through the contract, ESA will support Dawn in developing additively manufactured (3D printed) combustion chambers for high performance and high combustion pressure rocket engines.

“We are proud to work in cooperation with the European Space Agency,” said Jeroen Wink, Dawn Aerospace CEO. “This is important work that will lead to higher-performance, more reliable rocket engines that can fly to space hundreds of times without refurbishment”.

Commonly printed materials such as stainless steel, Inconel and titanium lack the thermal conductivity required for ultra-high-performance combustion chambers. The planned work involves novel 3D printing high melting temperature and high thermally conductive materials, with optimized topologies.

Implementation of successful results is then planned for Dawn’s 2.5kN rocket engine within the Mk-II Aurora spaceplane. Additive manufacturing offers an excellent opportunity to reduce the cost, weight and part count of rocket engines. Applying this method to these materials will lead to high-performance and lighter rocket engines.

Instrumental to the European strategy for access to space, ESA’s FLPP oversees research to foster new launch technologies, lightweight and high-performance systems, reusability, low-cost structures and green launch systems.

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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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