Firehawk’s 3D-printed fuels and rocket engines have successfully passed testing
Texas-based startup Firehawk's rocket engines and 3D-printed fuel have succeeded in testing.
Established two years ago, Firehawk moved to Dallas to develop its 3D-printed rocket engine and fuel concept, as The Dallas Morning News reported. The project came to fruition thanks to CEO Will Edwards and chief scientist Ron Jones, who gave the fuel's structure and 3D-printed it in a specially engineered matrix.
The structured, solid fuel grain is more stable and transportable than other fuels, and it burns very predictably. The company built engines around this concept and tested them on smaller scales, but they've also been working on the type of engine you'd use if you went to space. However, the company has stated that one of the system's strengths is its adaptability.
“It’s a unique engine with its throttling ability, low cost of manufacture, and a parametric design, so we can design for a missile interception system or second stage booster,” said Edwards as per TechCrunch.
The process was picked over again and again
Printing the fuel grains differently allows for variable thrust characteristics in addition to improved safety, says TechCrunch. Additionally, the entire process can be repeatedly paused, slowed down, and restarted without risk.
Although this is frequently the case with liquid rocket engines, it isn't the case with solid ones: they burst at full power until they run out of fuel, which means you only get one shot at it and your choices for force vectors are limited — more like a drag racer than a regular car.
“Our engine can replace solid rocket motors with something significantly lower cost, on par with fuel performance, but you can control its burn — that’s something the industry finds incredibly compelling,” Edwards explained.
"The need for solid motors in defense and research is steady, and the improved customizability and other characteristics make Firehawk an attractive alternative for missions with varying requirements."
Firehawk has recently done engine burn tests at Stennis Space Center with NASA's supervision. According to the test results, the engines are ready to fly.
The list of funders is long
The new Series B funding round will enable more tests, R&D, and engine production to meet demand — though, predictably for a company working with Raytheon, NDAs prevent the nature of that demand from being described in any detail. They've raised $15.5 million so far but expect to reach $17 million soon.
Besides Raytheon, Star Castle VC, Draper & Associates, Goff Capital, Cathexis Ventures, Plains VC, Victorum Capital, Stellar VC, Capital Factory, Echo Investments, and Hemisphere Ventures are some of the funders of the project.
Although the engines currently being tested are almost ready for customer use, Edwards stressed that this is only the beginning.
“We can create really unique fuel grain geometries, and by changing the design we can improve its performance. It’s just a matter of rewriting some code and uploading that to our 3D printers,” he said.
NASA is funding research to develop a landmark-based AI navigation system for future robotic and human missions on the moon.