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UC San Diego’s Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS UCSD) successfully launched the Vulcan-1 rocket on Saturday, May 21, at the Friends of Amateur Rocketry (FAR) site in Mojave, CA.

SEDS UCSD initially experienced some delays, but successfully launched just before 4 p.m. in heavily windy conditions, making them the first university group to design, create, and launch a rocket powered by a completely 3-D printed engine.

Vulcan-1 was 19 feet long and 8 inches in diameter, capable of 750 lb. of thrust. A cryogenic, bi-propellant, liquid-fueled blow down system, the rocket was powered with a combination of liquid oxygen (LOx) and refined kerosene. The rocket engine was sponsored by GPI Prototype & Manufacturing Services and 3D printed in inconel 718 at their facilities in Lake Bluff, IL.

The Vulcan-1 project began in 2014 and quickly grew into a team of over 60 student engineers. The team fabricated and tested the rocket at Open Source Maker Labs, a makerspace in nearby Vista, CA which provided equipment and support for the project.  SEDS UCSD also received mentor support from NASA, XCOR, Open Source Maker Labs, and many other groups in the space industry.

“This sort of technology has really come to fruition in the last few years.  This is proof of concept that if students at the undergraduate level could drive down the costs of building these engines, we could actually fly rockets and send up payload that is cheaper and more efficient,” said Darren Charrier, the group’s incoming president.  “One day, we’d like to see this technology being implemented on large-scale rockets, which means that we could send satellites to provide internet for developing countries, we could mine asteroids, perhaps even go colonize Mars.”

SEDS UCSD is an undergraduate student-run research group that aims to advance the future of space exploration and development technology. SEDS has previously garnered media attention for being the first students to design, print, and test a 3-D printed rocket engine.

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