Velo3D and Launcher Expand Rocket Engine Component-Manufacturing Collaboration

Rocket developer adds a second Sapphire 3D printing system to its facility.

Rocket developer adds a second Sapphire 3D printing system to its facility.

Launcher’s Orbiter propellant tank printed out of Inconel using their first Velo3D Sapphire Printer. Image courtesy of Launcher/Velo3D.

The partnership between Velo3D Inc., a company involved in additive manufacturing (AM) for high-value metal parts, and Launcher, a developer of high-performance rockets for small satellites, are exploring the value of 3D printing for delivering these satellites to orbit cost-effectively and with destination-orbit flexibility. Launcher purchased a Velo3D metal additive manufacturing solution to print Inconel parts in April 2021 and has recently added a second one that prints Titanium.

Following successful testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center of Launcher’s liquid oxygen (LOX) turbopump for its high-performance closed cycle liquid rocket engine, Launcher is now working with Velo3D to 3D print its fuel pump, flight turbine housing parts, and Orbiter pressure vessels—the latter to be manufactured with the second Velo3D Sapphire metal AM system.  

“Velo3D really delivered on our turbopump, including its 3D-printed rotating impeller, all of which functioned perfectly the very first time at 30,000 rpm, using the first prototype,” says Max Haot, founder and CEO of Launcher.  

“Rocket engine turbopump parts typically require casting, forging, and welding,” Haot says. “Tooling required for these processes increases the cost of development and reduces flexibility between design iterations. The ability to 3D print our turbopump—including rotating Inconel shrouded impellers, thanks to Velo3D’s zero-degree technology—makes it possible now at a lower cost and increased innovation through iteration between each prototype.”

Founded in 2017, Launcher is a technology company dedicated to developing efficient rockets that can deliver small satellites to orbit. The “Launcher Light” rocket will carry payloads of up to 150 kg (330 labs) to low-earth orbit, using a single E-2 engine. A first launch is scheduled for 2024.

A company strategy is to use additive manufacturing in as many rocket components as possible. Although Launcher’s new advanced manufacturing facility in Los Angeles will include a variety of in-house capabilities, the company also plans to use Velo3D’s contract manufacturing partners like Stratasys Direct Manufacturing when scaling up production, particularly for AM.

“We’re very excited about working with innovative companies like Launcher,” says Benny Buller, founder and CEO of Velo3D. “Not only have they already proven out the value and experienced the quality of advanced metal AM through current projects, they understand the potential that this technology holds for expanding the success of their out-of-this-world enterprise.”

In March, Velo3D announced plans to merge with JAWS Spitfire Acquisition Corporation and become a public company.

Sources: Press materials received from the company and additional information gleaned from the company’s website.

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