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There has been and still is much discussion about the sense and nonsense of space travel. But beyond all of mankind's dreams of exploring and conquering distant planets, there are undoubtedly sensible reasons for leaving the Earth's gravitational pull. Just think of the many satellites with quite sensible tasks. But each overcoming of the gravitational field of the earth costs an enormous amount of energy and resources. The Fraunhofer Institute for Material and Beam Technology IWS in Dresden is trying to show that it can also be done "cheaper". The Saxon researchers have developed a microlauncher and are now presenting it for the first time at HANNOVER MESSE 2022. In later use, the microlauncher's propulsion system is expected to consume around 30 percent less fuel than conventional engines.

The Fraunhofer IWS therefore sees the microlauncher as an alternative to conventional launch vehicles. As medium-sized transport systems, they can carry payloads of up to 350 kilograms, which would be sufficient to take smaller satellites all the way into orbit. The basis of the microlauncher is an additively manufactured rocket engine with an aerospike nozzle, developed jointly with space experts from the Technical University of Dresden. Its special feature is that the propellant injector, combustion chamber and nozzle are manufactured layer by layer using Laser Powder Bed Fusion (L-PBF), an additive manufacturing process. The actual nozzle consists of a spike-shaped central body through which the combustion gases are accelerated. A key reason for using additive manufacturing is the need for efficient cooling, which in turn requires internal cooling channels. Such a complex regenerative cooling system as the internal, intertwined structures devised by the researchers would be impossible to mill or cast conventionally. Initial tests on the test stand of the Institute of Aerospace Engineering at the TU Dresden with a prototype of the aerospike engine have achieved burn times of up to 30 seconds. This proves that additive manufacturing can be used to produce a functioning liquid engine.