Jan 16, 2015 | By Simon

As more interest surrounds various efforts in space exploration ranging from the recent Rosetta Comet Landing to SpaceX’s attempt to launch a rocket into space and have it return to a barge off the coast of Southern California, it’s not surprising that those with some 3D printing know-how have turned to their desktop fabrication machines to churn out some of their own ‘high-flying’ projects... particularly in the realm of rocketry.

The first rocket in the video includes: 38mm blue tube + golf ball nose + 3D-printed Makerbot fin can.  The second rocket is a simpler Estes with D12 booster staging to a C6-7.

Among those who have been experimenting with various shapes and sizes of 3D printed rockets is Steve Jurveston, a successful venture capitalist from Silicon Valley who, in addition to being an avid rocket maker, also happens to be involved with SpaceX through his various business ventures.

With a degree in electrical engineering, it comes with little surprise that Steve has a deep interest in rocketry, which he enjoys as a hobby along with Elon Musk and their kids.  The rocket enthusiast is so well-versed on the topic as a matter of fact, that he even presented on the topic at last year’s Bay Area Maker Faire in a near 30-minute presentation on the Center Stage:

Among one of the more recent trips that Jurveston took to launch one of his rockets at the coast, he was able to pull 74g’s and reach a height of 9,454 feet...which is nearly two miles (3.2 KM)!

“The J270 takes this puppy from 0 to 1,363 MPH (Mach 1.8) in 2.6 seconds, pulling 74g’s … according to RockSim, it topped out at 9,454 ft,” said Jurveston.  

“That's a mighty big plume for an 18-inch tall rocket!”

To ensure that the rocket would travel on-course, Jurveston installed a golf ball into the nose to serve as a nose weight, which also self-centers the airframe during the launch.  It was then attached to a wire with a blinking LED light (which Jurveston repurposed from a pet collar).  

However after launching the rocket, Jurveston and family thought that they had lost the 3D printed aircraft at sea.     

“Luckily [the LED] proved to be waterproof, as we lost the rocket at sea,” said Jurveston.   

“We thought all was lost, but I got a voicemail at 11pm that night (I always put my name and cell phone number on the rocket).”

According to Steve, this is what he heard on the other line:

“Steeeeve! Duuuude! How are you man? I was on a great date with Jill, and we saw this red light in the sea. So I stripped down and swam out there and got it. It’s this, this… I don’t know what it is, but it looks like a bong with a blinking light, and I’m sure there is a great story behind it. So give me a call at ...”

Thankfully, Jurveston was able to retrieve the rocket from the good samaritan and has provided 3D printing files for the same fins that hes uses on his rocket designs on Thingiverse for anybody interested in trying the supersonic rocketry themselves:  

“I have flown this several times to Mach 1.9 (according to RockSim) since the fins are perfectly aligned every time. All you have to do is print it (10% fill, normal speed print, with rafts) and epoxy the fin can a quarter-inch or so above the bottom (so you can use a ring of duct tape for motor retention) of a 18" (or longer) strong 38mm motor/body tube (it is perfectly sized for Blue Tube) and tape a golf ball to the top (range balls are free nose cone + weight, which you will need).”

He has included both 38mm and 29mm minimum-diameter airframes; both of which cost under $10 to print and can be assembled in about 10 minutes after being 3D printed.  To launch the rockets, Jurvestons uses the I280 Metalstorm rocket motor, which requires a Level 1 certification to use.


Posted in 3D Printing Applications


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