Open Source Contest Looks For DIY Rocket Engine Builders Using 3D Printing Technology
March 9, 2013

Open Source Contest Looks For DIY Rocket Engine Builders Using 3D Printing Technology

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

A new partnership was announced on Friday between DIYROCKETS and Sunglass to launch the world's first open source competition to create 3D-printed rocket engines.

The competition is set to kick off on March 9, when designers and space entrepreneurs will be creating open source rocket engines that could potentially help serve the growing market for small payload delivery into low Earth orbit.

Inventor Dean Kamen and judges from NASA, MIT and TED will be selecting three winners from the competition, which will be announced on July 1, 2013.

DIYROCKETS says the contest aims to help drive down the design costs, while also creating innovative technology for all types of space hardware and parts. Teams are required to build a design that is both safe and legal, according to local jurisdictions. The designs must also be open source, according to the guidelines.

Technical criteria listed for the first place prize is ensuring the design is able to meet the basic technical requirements necessary to deliver a small payload to low-Earth orbit. Also, judges will be considering whether the design uses an efficient and minimal propellant, and whether it can achieve the necessary thrust and burn time without melting.

Judges will also be looking at whether the teams built a design that is cost-efficient for the small payload industry, and one that is more competitive than current products out there. They will also consider it a bonus if the design offers any new innovations or features.

The first place prize, sponsored by Sunglass, will be $5,000, while the "Student Prize," awarded to a team of students, will be $2,500.

“Our goal at Sunglass is to help take the next amazing idea to production faster through global collaboration,” said Nitin Rao, co-founder of Sunglass. “By joining forces with DIYROCKETS and Shapeways for the 3D Rocket Engine Design Challenge, we will be able to see a preview of the incredible impact that 3D printing and cloud collaboration will have in advancing aerospace technology.”

Darlene Damm, co-founder and co-president of DIYROCKETS, said they are excited to harness the power of open sourcing, 3D printing and collaboration.

“As NASA´s push towards private and public innovation finally comes to fruition and technology is now more affordable than ever, we see this as a greenfield opportunity to truly redefine space design and technology," said Damm.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is working up ideas to try and build a base on the moon using a 3D printer and lunar soil. The space agency is collaborating with industrial partners to create a dome with a cellular structured wall that could help shield inhabitants from meteoroids and space radiation on the moon.

“3D printing offers a potential means of facilitating lunar settlement with reduced logistics from Earth,” Scott Hovland of ESA´s human spaceflight team, said in a statement. “The new possibilities this work opens up can then be considered by international space agencies as part of the current development of a common exploration strategy.”