Defense One headline: Air Force to Test 3D-Printed Rocket Motors
Sub-headline: The maker, startup X-Bow Systems, recently accepted investment from Lockheed Martin.
X-Bow, pronounced “crossbow,” was founded in 2016, but operated in secrecy until March. In April, it announced it had raised $27 million in a Series A funding round. Lockheed Martin Ventures is among the startup’s investors, which is of note since the Federal Trade Commission blocked Lockheed from acquiring Aerojet Rocketdyne, which also makes solid rocket motors.
Solid rocket fuel is most commonly used in intercontinental ballistic missiles, anti-missile interceptors, and other military missiles and rockets. It is typically made by combining the raw materials in giant mixers, then pouring the solution into a rocket motor case. The casing is then put in a pit where it cures for several weeks.
Setting up a brick-and-mortar rocket factory takes years and costs hundreds of millions of dollars, Hundley said: “You’re talking stuff that weighs multiple tons, and takes two to four years of lead time to order one, [and] get it installed and checked out.”
So what’s the benefit of the X-Bow system of 3-d printing?
By comparison, X-Bow’s mobile factory travels inside four 20-foot shipping containers. Each box has a purpose: one is a control room, another holds the raw materials, another carries manufacturing equipment, and the last has the power and air-handling equipment to make it all work.