3D ModelingAerospace AMAM for SpaceAM SoftwareComputational Engineering

LEAP 71 fires up first rocket engine built through Noyron computational model

With no human intervention and in just 2 weeks from spec to manufacturing

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UAE-based LEAP71 tested a 5 kN Kerolox rocket engine thruster generated through Noyron RP, its Large Computational Engineering Model. This engine was designed without the use of CAD software, generated completely autonomously, and outputted on PicoGK, LEAP71’s open-source geometry kernel. It was then 3D printed in copper by AMCM.

The engine uses Kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen (LOX) as propellants. It is regeneratively cooled through cooling channels that angle around the outside of the combustion chamber. The fuel and oxidizer are mixed using an injector head with coaxial swirler elements.

Human-less design and manufacturing

This marks the first time that a functioning rocket thruster was generated entirely automatically, without any human intervention. The time span from the final decision about propellant types, and other fundamental specs, to manufacturing was less than 2 weeks. The generation of new design variations takes less than 15 minutes on a regular computer. The thruster geometry was printed in copper at AMCM, a leading metal 3D printing company in Germany, using a modified EOS M400 metal printer. Copper has a low melting point, but enables compact high-performance engines if actively cooled. If cooling failed, it would immediately melt.

LEAP71’s Co-founders: aerospace engineer Josefine Lissner and serial entrepreneur Lin Kayser

The engine uses thin cooling channels that swirl around the engine jacket, with a variable cross-section that ranges from 0.8mm to 1.2mm. The Kerosene is pressed through the channels to cool the engine down and prevent it from melting. Both propellants are then injected into the combustion chamber. The combustion temperature inside the engine is around 3000ºC, whereas the engine surface stays well below 200ºC, because of the active cooling.

The propellants are injected into the engine using a coaxial swirl injector head. This injector type is considered the most advanced. Additional film cooling inside the chamber is provided by injecting kerosene fuel through tiny holes near the wall of the combustion chamber. A multitude of measurement ports for thermal and pressure data enable information to flow back into the Noyron computational model.

The only human intervention was on the finished engine’ assembly into the testing system.

Noyron delivers a perfect punch

“We are extremely pleased with the outcome,” said LEAP71 Co-founder Lin Kayser. “The engine worked flawlessly on the first go, including a long-duration run, that validated steady-state. The burn time was only limited by the amount of fuel available and lasted for 12 seconds. The team at Airborne Engineering Ltd in the UK executed the test campaign brilliantly.”

The hot fire test was conducted in Wescott, UK, at the test site of Airborne Engineering on Friday, June 14, 2024. The engine was hot-fired for an initial 3.5 seconds using an oxidizer-to-fuel ratio of 1.8, which is lower than the nominal 2.3. By using less oxidizer, the engine burns slightly less hot. After confirming that the engine performed nominally and all temperatures were in the expected range, the engine was tested for a full 12-second long-duration burn at a nominal oxidizer-to-fuel ratio of 2.3.

The engine performed as expected. It achieved steady-state, which means it can essentially be operated as long as needed. The burn time was only limited by the fuel supply at the test site.

The engine was disassembled at the University of Sheffield the next day, and careful inspection confirmed that it was undamaged. The thruster will remain in the UK for future tests. Initial analysis of the data show that the pressure drop (the resistance) of the cooling channels is higher than modeled, which is due to the roughness of the 3D print. LEAP 71 will post-smooth the existing engine and modify Noyron to output slightly different cooling channel geometry for future engines.

Opening new possibilities for rocket manufacturing

LEAP 71 is a company founded by aerospace engineer Josefine Lissner and serial entrepreneur Lin Kayser whose mission is to advance the progress in engineering through the new field of Computational Engineering.

This approach to modeling physical objects uses sophisticated software algorithms. LEAP 71’s Large Computational Engineering Model Noyron is considered the most advanced model available.

Noyron is an advanced Large Computational Engineering Model, built on distilled engineering knowledge, physics and manufacturing constraints. It allows the autonomous creation of sophisticated machinery without human intervention, based on high-level requirements. It has been called the first AI model for the engineering of functional objects in the real world.

Noyron generates manufacturable geometry, predicts the performance of the object, and outputs procedures for production steps, as well as technical documentation.

The development of the Noyron TKL-5 rocket thruster, which was successfully hot-fired in June 2024, is an internal LEAP 71 project to showcase the capabilities of Noyron.

LEAP71 will publish more information in the coming days. This wealth of data that will be fed back into Noyron and allow the company to train and adjust its model. According to LEAP71, the engine survived the test campaign without a scratch and will be fired again.

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