“Ursa Major Technologies: Revolutionizing Space Travel with 3D Printed Rocket Motor Cases”


WASHINGTON — Propulsion firm Ursa Major announced a 3D printing-based approach to designing and manufacturing solid rocket motors it hopes will lead to faster and cheaper production.

The strategy, which the Colorado-based company calls Lynx, will first involve using a single 3D printer to make motor cases and subcomponents for smaller systems, founder and chief executive Joe Laurienti said in an interview with Defense News.

In time, he said, Ursa Major hopes that increasing the use of additive manufacturing will transform the solid rocket motor production process, and grow the nation’s ability to replenish its depleted stocks of weapons such as the Javelin, Stinger, and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMRLS.

The defense industry as well has been strained by the limited production pipeline for solid rocket motors in recent years, and multiple firms have repositioned themselves in attempts to open up new avenues.

Ursa Major embarked on the Lynx project approximately two years ago, according to Laurienti. They viewed it as a method to bring an innovative concept to the solid rocket motor industry, which until now, has primarily utilized additive manufacturing for prototyping rather than propulsion.

“We had no desire to join the solid rocket motor market merely to increase the number of players,” Laurienti stated. “We were aware that an in-depth analysis of the industry – identifying bottlenecks and requirements – was necessary.”

The Lynx model also provides Ursa Major with the flexibility to swiftly shift production to a different solid rocket motor model without the need for extensive rework or additional expenses, according to the company.

“The primary issues we observed were system flexibility and the ability to avoid setting up a factory for restocking a depleted arsenal,” Laurienti explained. “We sought a system capable of adaptability. Lynx can operate with the Javelin missile one day, switch to GMLRS the next, and then to the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile on the third day without any issues.”

Laurienti pointed out that Ursa Major’s 3D-printed approach for these cases will let some components be manufactured in one piece, contrasting the conventional method where different pieces are produced separately and then assembled. This would lessen the number of parts needed, enhance automation, and decrease the overall cost, he mentioned.

“Removing a dozen parts, and five or ten manual operations out of each motor, results in a quite significant cost reduction,” he expressed.

Laurienti conveyed that Lynx has the capability to 3D print roughly 50 small engine cases, measuring up to 2 ½ inches in diameter, in a span of three days. He added that conventional manufacturing methods might need around a month.

He further stated that Ursa Major’s Lynx printer has the capacity to produce objects that are up to 22 inches wide. The company has also pioneered multiple metallic alloys it can utilize for 3D printing, inclusive of high-strength nickel alloys, in addition to titanium and aluminum.

While Ursa Major isn’t working on the Javelin, GMLRS or Stinger programs now, Laurienti said the company believes a 3D printing strategy could help close those vital programs’ production gaps. The need to replenish those weapons has become even more acute as the United States has provided thousands of those munitions to Ukraine to fight against Russia’s invasion since 2022.

Laurienti said Ursa Major already is under contract to use Lynx on one system, but could not yet say what that system is. The company plans to announce that first system by the end of this year, and a second in early 2024.

By the end of 2024, he said, Ursa Major could be using Lynx to create parts for as many as four systems. And Laurienti also wants to have three Lynx 3D printing cells a year from now.

“It’s going to depend on how quickly we can get them up and running,” he said.

Original source


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