LONDON–Fueled by beer and the enthusiasm of amateurs, a British team on Friday said it was preparing to launch the world’s first ever 3D printed rocket.
Showing off the human-sized rocket in a central London office, Lester Haines, head of the “Special Projects Bureau” at technology magazine The Register, described the technical challenges and “big future” of 3D printing in aeronautics. “You can do highly complex shapes that simply aren’t practical to do any other way,” he told AFP, dressed in a white lab coat sporting the project motto “Ad astra tabernamque,” which means “to the stars and the pub.” “NASA are already 3D-printing metal rocket parts, so it’s obviously got a big future.” The project — sponsored by German data analytics firm Exasol — was suggested by readers of The Register and goes by the grand title “Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator,” or LOHAN for short. It took 30 committed team-members, including doctorate aeronautical engineers, four years to build the rocket. The biggest challenge, according to Haines, was getting the standard hobbyist rocket motor to fire at high altitudes. The team said it will launch the rocket from Spaceport America, the home of Virgin Galactic in New Mexico, later this year, after securing the 15,000 pounds (US$24,000, 19,000 euros) needed for lift-off on crowdfunding site Kickstarter.