Ursa Major Technologies, manufacturer of liquid rocket motors for launch vehicles, plans to offer 3D printed solid rocket motors for munitions.
The Berthoud, Colorado-based company is entering the market for solid rocket motors amid a shortage of suppliers and interest from the U.S. Defense Department in supporting additional sources to replace its inventory, which has been depleted by donations to Ukraine.
Solid rocket motors are used to propel a variety of tactical missiles like the shoulder-launched Javelin or High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Rocket motor hardware is traditionally cast. However, the Pentagon has been investing in startups that say they can make the parts better using 3D printers.
Ursa Major has previously focused on developing liquid rocket motors for launch vehicles, in-space propulsion, and hypersonic vehicles. In May, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory gave the company funding to build and test a prototype of a new hypersonic engine and develop its 200,000-lb.-thrust Arroway engine for space launches.
The company says by leaning heavily on 3D printing it can reduce liquid rocket engine part count and assembly time, while making it easier to quickly make design changes. Those same advantages apply to 3D printing solid rocket motors, said Joe Laurienti, Ursa Major founder and CEO, on Nov. 16. For example, on one solid rocket motor designed for an unnamed tactical missile, Ursa Major has been able to reduce the part count from 10 pieces to one using a 3D printer, he says.