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WATCH: Australia's 3D printed rocket engine is being tested

The aerospike rocket engine. Image: Monash University

A team of Australian engineers has successfully designed, 3D printed, built, and tested a rocket engine in just four months.

The aerospike rocket engine, called Project X, is a joint effort between Monash University and Amaero, a Monash spin-out company winning contracts with major aerospace companies around the world.

Monash University researchers and their partners were two years ago the first in the world to print a jet engine, based on an existing engine design.

The Monash engineers have now created a new venture, NextAero, to take their concepts to the global aerospace industry, starting with the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide later this month.

Here’s the new jet engine in action:

The aerospike design works by firing gases along a spike and using atmospheric pressure to create a virtual bell. The shape of the spike allows the engine to maintain high efficiency at higher altitudes.

“Traditional bell-shaped rockets, as seen on the Space Shuttle, work at peak efficiency at ground level,” says Marten Jurg, an engineer with Amaero.

“As they climb the flame spreads out reducing thrust. The aerospike design maintains its efficiency but is very hard to build using traditional technology.

“Using additive manufacturing (printing) we can create complex designs, print them, test them, tweak them, and reprint them in days instead of months.”

Professor Nick Birbilis, head of the Material Science and Engineering Department at Monash, says going from concept to testing in just four months is an amazing achievement.

“It illustrates what’s possible for research and industry,” he says. “Through our spin-out company, Amaero, Australian companies can design, print, and test metal components for everything from aerospace to surgical instruments, hose fittings to air conditioning parts.”

The development of the rocket was supported by Monash University, Amaero Engineering, and Woodside Energy.

Watch the 3D printing and assembly of the engine:

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