Oct. 2, 2014

The first 3D printed rocket-powered spaceplane 'Vulture 2' will be launched this autumn with sponsorship from EXASOL AG, the provider of EXASolution the world's most powerful engine for analytics and data warehousing. The company announced today.

The Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission which started as a modest proposal to print a spaceplane, stick a rocket motor in its rear end, lift it to altitude under a helium-filled meteorological balloon, press the big red button and see what happens, gradually evolved into a far greater challenge.

The Vulture 2, the product of four years of hard work, will take off from Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America base in New Mexico and rise to an estimated launch altitude of 20,000m (12 miles) under a carbon fibre launch structure lifted by a helium-filled meteorological balloon. Once the rocket motor fires, the aircraft will soar to a heady 25,000m (15.6 miles), after which the Vulture 2 will glide back to earth under autopilot control.

Here's the plan in pictures:

The Vulture 2 was designed by post-graduate aeronautical design students at The University of Southampton and produced with industrial-scale 3D printer. It is probably the most advanced amateur UAV on the planet. The avionics are an advanced mix of 3D Robotics autopilot and Raspberry Pi. Between them, they will use GPS, airspeed and other telemetry to navigate the Vulture 2 back to a predetermined landing site. Cameras will record the entire flight from ascent, through to blast-off, and on to landing.

The Vulture 2 hot off the 3D printing press (Images from Special Projects Bureau)

Lester Haines, head of the Register's Special Projects Bureau and holder of the Guinness World Record for the highest launch of a paper aeroplane, said: "Without doubt, this is the most complicated amateur high-altitude mission ever undertaken. We've spent four years, thousands of hours and quite a bit of cash overcoming numerous technical challenges, and we're delighted that EXASOL has come on board for the grand finale. We don't know quite what will happen when the big day arrives, but one thing's for sure – it's going to be quite a show."

Aaron Auld, CEO of EXASOL, said: "When we heard about The Register's plan to launch the Vulture 2, we thought it was only fitting that the world's fastest in-memory analytic database, EXASolution, should support this fascinating venture."

If you like to have more details on the project, head over to The Reg for the full story.

 


Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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